Southern African leisure carrier Nationwide Airlines plans to start long-haul services later this year on routes from its Johannesburg base to Europe. The launch is pending the establishment of a passenger protection scheme to cover unflown tickets as required by South African aviation law.

The airline aims to serve Brussels with extensions to London Gatwick and Munich. Nationwide's commercial executive Chris Hoare says the airline hopes to launch services by the end of August using two Boeing 747-300s leased from Boeing.

"We know the possible start-up schedule is tight," says Hoare, "but we have an infrastructure, which should make it easier."

The airline is targeting leisure, conference and incentive markets in Benelux countries, Germany and the UK, and has set up a risk-sharing partnership with a Belgium consortium, which will handle sales and administration in Europe.

"Traffic from the Benelux to South Africa has dropped 15% since Sabena pulled out. There is demand on the route, but we're not planning to compete with the dominant mainline business carriers and we're not looking for a price war," says Hoare.

Nationwide launched domestic services seven years ago and operates a fleet of three Boeing 727s and seven Boeing 737-200Advs. It is phasing out its BAC One-Elevens, with all but one of the 11 aircraft it owns now stored. The last One-Eleven will leave this month for operation with Zambian franchisee Nationwide Airlines Zambia, and the airline plans to lease more to African carriers.

The airline is also expanding regionally to get full use of two 737s which arrived last month, with services to Livingstone up from four to seven a week. From 1 August, Nationwide will fly twice weekly between Sun City and Livingstone and weekly between Johannesburg, Livingstone and Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.

Twice-daily flights between Johannesburg and the Mpumalanga province will begin when the Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport opens on 30 September. Seven flights over five days will serve Port Elizabeth from 8 August.

Source: Flight International