Monday, December 3, 2012

► DUBAI: Emirates eyes fastjet as potential feeder airline in Africa.

EmiratesEmirates (EK) has confirmed its interest in partnering recently launched Tanzanian based LCC, fastjet (FN) having previously allured to a possible deal in the past, albeit only in broad terms.

Spurred on by Africa’s rapid economic growth amid increased trade with Asian economies, the Middle Eastern carrier is looking to connect the bulk of the continent’s travellers to the rest of the world through its Dubai hub with budget airlines set to "feed" it with cargo and passengers via major cities like Nairobi, Dakar and Luanda.

In a recent interview with the Kenyan press, Emirates' Jean-Luc Grillet discussed fastjet in terms of Emirates current "strong" relations with European parent, easyJet:
We are willing to work with Fastjet. It is an independent carrier and that makes our work easy,” said Mr Jean-Luc Grillet, Emirates senior vice-president in charge of commercial operations for Africa.

We have strong experience with European budget carrier easyJet and are keenly following how they roll out in Africa,” said Mr Grillet. This will put it in a head-to-head battle with Kenya Airways, which draws half of its revenues from African routes and has hinged its strategy on connecting the continent to Asia and Europe through Nairobi.

fastjet's inaugural flight to Mwanza
fastjet's inaugural flight to Mwanza (fastjet)

With Precision Air (PW) the dominate carrier in Tanzania at present, Rwandair (WB) an emerging force and Kenya Airways set to launch its own LCC, JamboJet, in due course, the scene has been set for a show down for East Africa's regional aviation market.

However, should fastjet's venture flourish in its other focus cities - Accra, Nairobi and Luanda - in the long run, as it is expected to, all African carriers - regional and international - will find themselves under increasing pressure in all aspects of the price market - whether for low no-frills fares, or regular full service fares. 

If that situation does indeed unfold, then a bold proposal by outgoing Kenya Airways CEO, Titus Naikuni, made during the recently ended AFRAA 44th AGM in which he suggested a tie up between Kenya Airways, Ethiopian Airlines (ET) and South African Airways (SA), so as to create an airline capable of competing with European and Middle Eastern airlines, may seem not only more plausible, but critical in the long run, if only for the politics involved in making it a viable reality.