Fastjet confirms possible partnership with Emirates

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Fastjet chief executive Ed Winter has confirmed that the pan-African carrier is in talks with Dubai-based Emirates Airline over a possible future partnership.

"Talks are at an early stage but this represents a great opportunity for both parties," he says in a statement.

Winter's remarks come after the Kenyan press quoted Jean-Luc Grillet, Emirates' senior vice-president commercial Africa, as saying that the Dubai flag carrier is "willing to work with Fastjet".

"It is an independent carrier, and that makes our work easy," Grillet had told Business Daily.

Fastjet launched domestic Tanzanian operations on 29 November, deploying the first of three Airbus A319s at Dar es Salaam's Julius Nyerere airport.

The airline, which is 5%-owned by Stelios Haji-Ioannou, had originally planned to open its second operating base in Nairobi, Kenya during the first quarter of 2013. That was to be followed by two west African bases in Accra, Ghana and Luanda, Angola.

However, Fastjet confirmed earlier this week that it is close to acquiring South Africa's recently grounded 1time Airline, giving it a foothold in the continent's most developed aviation market.

Fastjet's pan-African aspirations could have appeal as a potential feeder network for Emirates, which relies on funnelling intercontinental traffic through its hub at Dubai International airport.

Any such partnership would pose a direct competitive threat to Kenya Airways, whose strategy hinges on routing people through its Nairobi hub.

"Emirates currently flies to 24 destinations in Africa, while Fastjet launched its operations in Tanzania last month and plans to become a pan-African carrier," Winter notes in the statement.

"A partnership would benefit both Fastjet and Emirates with greater passenger traffic, and would give travellers in Africa the opportunity to connect to the rest of the world through Emirates' Dubai hub, with Fastjet providing passengers from African cities."

In September, Winter told Flightglobal that Fastjet will keep any airline partnerships at arms-length, describing tie-ups between low-cost and full-service carriers as "difficult".