Lonrho Column

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Your Friend in Africa

In these days of tough economic times, financial directors don’t want to pay the extra in a hotel for just a bit of bowing and scraping,” says Richard Shackleton at easyHotels.  Cash is truly king once more, as financial managers force their colleagues to justify paying any more than necessary for every hotel stay and flight. This change in mindset makes the budget travel market one of the best places to invest for growth today. 

Africa is poised to get its first continent-wide discount air service, after Fly540 and EasyJet  announced that they are collaborating to create FastJet. That’s excellent news for African travellers, because they’re able to build on Fly540’s success in East Africa, where the airline established affordable air travel through Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and recently Southern Sudan. Combine that with one of the most experienced budget airline teams in the industry, and you have to believe that FastJet will succeed.    

It’s ironic that the wealthiest nations enjoy air travel at budget prices, whilst we in Africa are forced to endured exorbitant airfares. Fly Johannesburg  to Gaborone and it will cost you around R2,000, whilst people in the UK can fly from Stansted London to Frankfurt-Hahn with Ryanair for only R600. SAA Express is three times more expensive and the flight distance to Gaborone is 93 nautical miles less. The reason? No budget competition.    

Like carriers from Southwest Airlines in the U.S. to Malyasia’s AirAsia Bhd, to Europe’s easyJet and Ryanair, I expect FastJet to attract a huge new market, offering fares low enough to persuade people to fly for the first time and for us regular travellers to finally have an alternative to the current airfares and poor service offered by government-owned airlines. 

Aviation experts tell us that the continent is woefully under-served by the airlines. This surely must be a massive opportunity for FastJet to shake up Africa’s aviation market. We’ve witnessed on all other continents how the aviation market changes, to the benefit of the passengers, whenever a major budget airline secures a foothold. I look forward to the day when we can traverse Africa on a low-cost, point-to-point, no-frills airline, operating to European standards of safety and quality.   

See you in departures.

Ewan Cameron – CEO: Lonrho Hotels

 

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