Thursday, 2 May 2013

Interview: Kyle Haywood, Fastjet South Africa CEO

Fastjet to launch in South Africa with wet-leased 737

Fastjet will enter the domestic South African market on 30 May with a Boeing 737-300 wet-leased from Star Air Cargo, division chief executive Kyle Haywood says, though no final decision has been taken about the future fleet.

The 1994-build aircraft (MSN 27346) is subject to a rolling six-month lease. It was formerly operated by defunct South African carrier Velvet Sky, according to Flightglobal's Ascend Online database.

Fastjet's Tanzanian business unit operates a fleet of three Airbus A319s, and Haywood says the group is assessing the potential benefits of moving to a single type across all units.

"We are looking at what should be the most appropriate fleet for South Africa," he tells Flightglobal. "The debate is principally around Airbus or Boeing.

"It's feasible to have a mixture of aircraft across different business units, but you get economies of scale by having the same for all of them...By country it's absolutely critical to have a one-type fleet, so the business model in South Africa should ultimately end up with one type of aircraft."

Haywood says Fastjet has a guarantee on a second 737 with Star Air Cargo, though for now that aircraft is being treated as a "backup".

Fastjet's South African business unit will use the air operator's certificate (AOC) of Johannesburg-based charter carrier Federal Airlines, which will continue operating as a turboprop air shuttle provider.

Outlining the low-cost carrier's growth plans in South Africa, Haywood says Fastjet will launch services with a twice daily link on the vital Johannesburg-Cape Town trunk route.

"Obviously the main trunk route needs to grow in frequency, and we need to add some additional destinations," he notes. "It makes sense to get a strong presence domestically with a number of different route options."

Cape Town-Durban will likely become the carrier's second domestic route, while links to Port Elizabeth and East London will also be considered.

After "a year or two" of consolidating its domestic network, the South African business unit will then look at expanding regionally with a handful of international flights. The group is still pursuing a Dar es Salaam-Johannesburg link, but Haywood says that would be served by the Tanzanian unit's A319s.

Longer-term, he envisages Fastjet operating "at least 15 aircraft" in South Africa, though he stresses that regional economic fortunes will influence its expansion prospects.

Fastjet's South African business unit was unveiled last month after the London-based group signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with local investment firm Blockbuster - since renamed Fastjet Holdings - which will own 75% of the new venture.

An earlier plan to take over defunct South African operator 1time Airline was abandoned due to the company's debt pile and difficulties surrounding foreign ownership laws.