From : Tourismupdate.co.za

4 July 2012

Lonrho Plc’s low-cost African airline, FastJet, will operate Airbus A319s, with the first flights scheduled for October.

The company announced the sale of its aviation business to British investment firm, Rubicon last month. The sale enabled the group to create FastJet with easyJet founder, Stelios Haji-Ioannou’s easyGroup.

On June 29, Rubicon announced the successful completion of its deal with Lonrho Aviation and its airline Fly540, providing the merged group with existing aviation platforms in Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania and Angola.

FastJet will operate under a brand licence agreement with EasyGroup Holdings and Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou, founder of leading low-cost airline easyJet.

The Airbus A319 has proved an ideal aircraft for the low-cost airline model in other parts of the world.  The 156-seat aircraft was chosen after an extensive evaluation of a wide range of options and is ideally suited to the company’s expansion plans.

“The decision to launch FastJet with the Airbus A319 enables us to expand rapidly, with each aircraft potentially carrying around 250,000 passengers a year.  Rubicon expects passenger numbers to double from current levels within six months of the introduction of the A319 fleet,” said Rubicon Chief Executive, Ed Winter.

“We plan to add at least five leased A319s to the fleet within six months of launch and up to 15 within a year,” continued Winter.

“FastJet will open up low-cost travel to the African market, and the Airbus A319 will bring new levels of comfort to air passengers across Africa.  It is a great combination,” said John Leahy, Airbus Chief Commercial Officer Customers.

David Lenigas, Executive Chairman of Rubicon and Lonrho Plc, said FastJet had already stated its intent to raise the bar on air safety in Africa by operating its aircraft under the same strict rules that applied to European carriers.

“To this end, we expect to sign an agreement with a major European MRO (Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul) company for the maintenance of its new A319 fleet in the coming months. Our management team has also been actively engaged in detailed discussions with a number of governments to lobby for incentives and reduced passenger taxes, factors that will affect our final decision on where to deploy the first A319s,” said Lenigas.