Zimbabwean start-up Flyafrica plans to start new airlines in a bid to expand into southern and western Africa, but faces its biggest challenge in convincing the travelling public to trust its “ultra low-cost” business model, says group chief executive Adrian Hamilton-Manns.
Using a fleet of five-owned Boeing 737-500s, Flyafrica is to begin operations in July with flights from Victoria Falls to Johannesburg, and intends to follow this up through organic growth and by creating new subsidiary airlines to serve the wider region.
“Each airline will be an independent operating entity united under one common brand identity,” Hamilton-Manns tells Flightglobal.
He describes the airline’s business model as “ultra low-cost”, adding that “the key to success is passing the cost to the end user to reduce our cost base”.
Hamilton-Manns says Flyafrica’s route development strategy is “relatively simple” and focuses on connecting regional and domestic city pairs within a 2.5h flying radius of its Harare base.
He denies any similarity with Tanzania-based FastJet, which is also in the process of expanding organically and via multiple subsidiaries including FastJet Zimbabwe; and argues that the time is ripe to bring low-cost air travel to Zimbabwe.
“We believe that the environment and preferred time to launch an airline needs to be created – which is what we are doing,” says Hamilton-Manns. “With the development in Southern Africa, the time to launch a ULCC [ultra-low-cost carrier] to reduce the sky-high cost of travel has never been better.”
But the airline boss sees the carrier’s biggest test as convincing the general public that there is a safe, low-cost air travel alternative to road travel.
“Our key challenge is to win over a traveling public who do not see travel as a viable alternative due to its historically expensive cost. The opportunity is the same as the challenge.”
Flyafrica will use a mixture of direct web sales and GDS providers to sell its tickets, but “traditional” distribution methods such as travel agents are also expected to provide “significant volume of bookings”.