Pan-African low-cost carrier FastJet is gearing up to launch operations in November from Dar es Salaam, Tanzania and "aspires" to have a fleet of 40 aircraft by the end of 2016.

The airline, which is being funded by London-based investment firm Rubicon with backing from EasyJet founder Stelios Haji-Ioannou's EasyGroup, will launch with two 156-seat ex-EasyJet A319s in November. It has memoranda of understanding with a lessor for a further two A319s and will announce its initial routes when tickets go on sale in October, says FastJet chief commercial officer Richard Bodin.

"We are looking for aggressive growth in at least three countries - Tanzania, Ghana and Kenya - and we'll also look to grow in Angola but there are certain restrictions in place that we need to overcome," he says. "The aspiration is to have 15 aircraft by the end of 2013 and get to a fleet of 30-40 aircraft within three to four years."

The four countries FastJet will initially serve are where it has secured air operators' certificates through the acquisition of established African regional airline Fly540 from investment firm Lonrho. FastJet's long-term aim is to serve at least four more African countries, but these have not been identified. "We have a list of countries we're looking at and we're being courted by three or four governments," says Bodin.

The new airline will be headquartered at London Gatwick and have local teams based in each country to manage each AOC. Flightcrews will also be based locally in each country.

FastJet's low-cost business model has been "moulded" to fit the African market, says Bodin. For example, with internet penetration at less than 25% in Africa, more traditional sales and distribution channels are needed.

"We'll be utilising travel agents, walk-up and telephone call-sent sales and mobile phone payment channels. We're also listed on the global distribution systems," he says.

For the plan to work, FastJet must spur growth in the African aviation market, Bodin says: "We're not in this to take market-share from Kenya Airways, Ethiopian or anyone else. Our aspirations are to grow the market."

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news