BULAWAYO, March 6 (The Source) – Low-cost airline Flyafrica has expanded its fleet to five planes and now boasts assets worth over $10 million as it presses ahead with plans to become a competitive regional airline, an official has said.
Speaking at the launch of the airline’s Bulawayo-Johannesburg flight on Thursday, Chakanyuka Karase, executive chairman of FlyAfrica’s Zimbabwe franchise said Flyafrica now had five aeroplanes, with plans to increase them as it grows its footprint.
“At the moment we have a total of 5 airplanes and we are looking to be a regional airline. Our asset base is valued between $10million and $11 million,” he said.
He said the airline now employs more than 100 people.
Transport minister Obert Mpofu said the introduction of the flights will increase choice, with South African Express the only consistent operator servicing the route.
“This development will go a long way in easing the travel challenges of our citizens, be they tourists, traders or investors and thereby increasing trade between our countries while also stimulating tourism, given improved connectivity,” Mpofu said.
He added that the introduction of new players in the market was in line with government policy of deregulating the air transport sector, a key enabler to economic development as it provides access to a wider marketplace and reduced airfares.
In January, aviation magazine Centre for Aviation projected that FlyAfrica would command a 20 percent share of the lucrative Zimbabwe-South Africa routes in 2015, up from 12 percent last year. The budget carrier currently competes with Air Zimbabwe, South African Airways and British Airways franchise partner Comair on the Johannesburg-Harare and Johannesburg-Victoria Falls routes.
The airline is a partnership between the Karase family’s Fresh Air and Mike Bond of the now defunct 1Time of South Africa.
Its Bulawayo-Johannesburg flights cost $178 return compared to national carrier, Air Zimbabwe’s $380 for the same route.
The airline was licensed by the Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe in August 2014 and introduced its first aircraft in the same month to service the Victoria Falls-Johannesburg route.
Plans are underway to expand the business into Mozambique, Zambia, Tanzania and Malawi after being granted three more licences to service the routes last year.