FastJet to add 10 Airbus A319s by end of 2015

FastJet said it’s in talks about adding more Airbus Group NV (AIR) shor... thumbnail 1 summary
FastJet said it’s in talks about adding more Airbus Group NV (AIR) short-haul jets to the fleet as the discount carrier seeks to open bases in Zambia, Zimbabwe and Kenya next year while expanding operations in Tanzania.

FastJet, which currently operates three Airbus A319s, is negotiating with a number of leasing companies about aircraft availability in the next three to six months, with expansion plans calling for as many as 13 of the type by the end of 2015, Chief Executive Officer Ed Winter said today in an interview.

“People were skeptical about us putting A319s into Africa but they’ve worked well with good reliability and punctuality,” he said. “We’re getting close to saying these planes are full and I hope we’re about to see an opportunity to really expand.”

FastJet’s strategy through the end of next year calls for seven A319s to be based in Tanzania, where operations began in 2012. The London-based carrier also envisages stationing three planes in Zambia, together with two in Zimbabwe, where Robert Mugabe’s government has proved receptive to approaches, Winter said, while a sole aircraft could be located in Kenya.
FastJet shares traded 6.8 percent lower at 1.38 pence as of 11 a.m. in London after it posted an underlying first-half loss of $30.5 million, before interest and tax. The expansion needs funds beyond 15 million pounds ($24 million) raised in April, and Winter said talks are ongoing with African backers and that he’d also be receptive to a deal with an airline investor.

Discussions are under way about a more immediate plan to source two A319s from the leasing unit of Industrial & Commercial (1398) Bank of China Ltd., Winter said. The aircraft would replace planes due to be returned to Volito Aviation Services of Sweden, in which Goldman Sachs Inc. (GS) has a minority stake.

FastJet still aims to secure an air operating certificate for Zambia by the end of this year and could add international routes quickly there, Winter said. Talks in Kenya, which the airline once earmarked for its initial base, have been more drawn out, and local rules will require a year of domestic-only flying before foreign services can be added, he said.

The carrier’s plans to establish the first pan-African discount network will continue to focus on East Africa for the foreseeable future, the CEO said, with the possibility of bases in Angola and Ghana, where it already holds AOCs, receding.

Bases could open in South Africa and Uganda in 2016, while by 2018 Winter sees a fleet of up to 34 jets, nine in South Africa, seven in Tanzania and Kenya, four in Uganda and Zimbabwe and three in Zambia. FastJet’s first international route, Dar es Salaam-Johannesburg, began last October, and it has since added services from the Tanzania city to Lusaka, Harare and Entebbe.

Winter said talks have resumed on implementing a code-share deal with Dubai-based Emirates, the No. 1 international airline, for which Dar es Salaam is an expanding destination. Middle Eastern carriers are candidates to invest in FastJet, where EasyJet Plc (EZJ) founder Stelios Haji-Ioannou holds a 10 percent stake but has been critical of recent pay awards to executives.

The first-half loss included $13.9 million from Tanzania and $13.5 from the Angola and Ghana operations, now suspended. Tanzanian sales almost doubled to $19 million, with both the customer total and revenue per passenger up about 40 percent.

Source: Pesatimes