JSE-listed low cost carrier 1time Holdings has joined forces with Harare-based Nu-Aero to launch Zimbabwe's first low-cost carrier, Fresh Air.
The launch took place on Friday. 1time Airline commercial director Mike Bond said Fresh Air would start offering flights from next month between Johannesburg and Victoria Falls.
Mr Bond said this flight would replace the service 1time currently offers between Livingstone and Johannesburg.
The two companies hope to supply the demand for low-cost flights in the region as connectivity is expensive.
The launch of the airline is both a calculated gamble and a necessity for 1time, which has been battered in the low-cost market in South Africa.
Weak economic conditions have caused travel demand to fall, which has exaggerated the effect of excess of capacity in the market. At the same time airport charges and fuel prices have seen large spikes.
The new airline hoped to take advantage of the opportunity to provide low-cost services within the region, 1time CEO Black Komani said.
In its partnership with Nu-Aero, he said, 1time would share "our experience and infrastructure in the aviation industry while Fresh Air launches Zimbabwe's first low-cost carrier, with licences to operate the underserviced domestic market and various regional routes to be announced in the near future".
It was hoped the successful development of the international route between Victoria Falls and Johannesburg would demonstrate the new low-cost carrier's ability to operate and open the way for Fresh Air to apply for new routes, the first being a connection between Harare and Victoria Falls, Mr Bond said.
"This will allow us to offer low-cost flights to the Zimbabwean domestic market. It would be a first step," Mr Bond said, adding it would take at least three months before Fresh Air would be in a position to apply for this route.
"This is for the development of Zimbabwean aviation - this isn't about 1time coming and taking all the value, this about creating a business in Zimbabwe that develops their aviation industry," Mr Bond said.
The introduction of a low-cost carrier in Zimbabwe, which has been crippled by policies that have laid waste to the country's economy, comes ahead of the country's controversial selection as host nation for the United Nations World Tourism Organisation's 20th general assembly next year.
The introduction of a low-cost carrier in Zimbabwe would stimulate domestic and regional air travel, Chakanyuka Karase, CEO of Fresh Air, said.
"The entry of a low-cost carrier in Zimbabwe has great potential. We have absolutely no doubt this business model will succeed as it is exactly what our emerging economy needs to maintain sustainability," Mr Karase said.
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