HARARE, February 13 (The Source) – Fastjet Zimbabwe has pulled out of the Victoria Falls-Johannesburg route citing high operational costs.
The airline is now exploring the possibility of replacing the Airbus A319 aircraft that it has been operating on the route with a smaller jetliner, according to chief executive officer (CEO), Nico Bezuidenhout, who issued a comprehensive statement on the Pan African airline’s Zimbabwean operations on Friday.
The report, which has been obtained by The Source, covers the 2016 fiscal year.
“Fastjet Zimbabwe has also suspended its under-performing route between Victoria Falls and Johannesburg and is evaluating the possible transition from its Airbus A319 aircraft to a smaller, more fuel-efficient Embraer E190 aircraft,” Bezuidenhout said.
Fastjet Zimbabwe entered the South African market in the first quarter of 2016 with five weekly frequencies into Johannesburg from Harare and later added the Victoria Falls-Johannesburg route to its roster.
Riding on its low cost model, Fastjet hoped it would capture a viable market share, but Victoria Falls-Johannesburg is one of southern Africa’s hotly contested routes to the region’s arguably biggest tourist attraction.
Some of the established operators on the route include British Airways Comair and South African Airways.
Aviation industry reports say after the US$150 million expansion of the Victoria Falls International Airport in December last year, competition on the airway is projected to remain cutthroat as global carriers enter the route.
Fastjet began domestic flight operations on 28 October 2015, plying the Harare-Victoria Falls route three times a week.
Today, it operates 32 weekly flights to and from Harare, Johannesburg and Victoria Falls.
“Since launching, the airline has flown more than 125,000 passengers on 1,678 flights over a distance of more than 1,3 million kilometres – with an impressive 94 percent on-time performance, establishing itself as a punctual, reliable, and affordable low-cost carrier,” said Bezuidenhout.
“Just one example of the impact that affordable air travel can have on the Zimbabwean economy is the approximate $2,7 million figure in airport and government fees and taxes that Fastjet Zimbabwe estimates it has collected from its passengers on behalf of the Zimbabwean Government and the Airports that it flies to and from. We have a shared goal of increasing the number of business and tourism travellers into Zimbabwe. We understand it is a collective effort by all stakeholders concerned and we are committed to our responsibility of assisting to build the positive image of Zimbabwe,” said Bezuidenhout.