Low-cost airline fastjet is based in Britain and listed in London.
Low-cost airline fastjet is based in Britain and listed in London.

LONDON-listed fastjet said on Friday it had put off its plans to launch low-cost services between Johannesburg and Cape Town for an unspecified period to focus on developing new international services from Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

The airline secured bilateral air service agreements from the Tanzanian government to South Africa, Rwanda and Zambia.

Fastjet, which has ambitions of being a low-cost pan-African carrier, has been trying without success to start a low-cost carrier service in South Africa since December with its failed bid for bankrupt airline 1Time.

It has had to put off three commencement-of-service launches in South Africa.

This week fastjet declined to respond to queries regarding its South African service after Business Day reported that it had failed to pay a deposit to a leasing company in time to secure the Boeing 737-300 it planned to use between Cape Town and Johannesburg.

"Fastjet has been granted permission to launch international flights from Tanzania to South Africa, Zambia and Rwanda," the airline said in a statement on Friday. "Fastjet expects soon to announce launch dates for these flights, which include the Dar es Salaam to Johannesburg route, which is presently served only by South African Airways."

In addition to the granting of bilateral air service agreements from the Tanzanian government, which fastjet has been waiting for since last year, on Thursday the airline signed a memorandum of understanding with Red 1 Airways of Nigeria, it said.

This agreement had been signed with a view to "create a low-cost airline operating within Nigeria and to destinations across Africa", it said.

The newly secured bilateral rights and the Nigerian opportunity "led the fastjet board to take a decision to put the launch of fastjet-branded domestic routes in South Africa temporarily on hold so that it can direct all its efforts and resources to starting its international services as soon as possible", it said.

The rights come as a relief to the airline, which has struggled over the past year-and-a-half. It reported a $52.4m loss for the 18 months to the end of May, causing its auditors to raise an emphasis of matter in its annual report about the airline’s ability to continue to operate as a going concern.

On Friday, fastjet said it had raised £1.12m through an existing equity facility with Henderson Global Investors Volantis Capital through its subsidiary Darwin Strategic limited. A new three-year equity financing facility of up to £15m had also been concluded with Darwin, fastjet CEO Ed Winter said.

South Africa remained "a cornerstone in the creation of a fastjet-branded pan-African network", Mr Winter said. The company remained "totally committed to launching the fastjet brand in South Africa as soon as possible", he said.

With the new rights in hand, fastjet’s chief commercial officer, Richard Bodin, said the carrier was "planning a huge sales launch activity that will see it offering its customers never-seen-before fares".

"We hope to offer early-booking passengers fares as low as $100 (one way excluding government taxes and charges) to and from Johannesburg. We have made a commitment to the people of Africa to democratise air travel on the continent and this is another very significant step on that journey," Mr Bodin said.