FASTJET Airlines plans to engage Zambians in its operations either directly or through the Zambian stock exchange, says chief commercial officer Richard Bodin.
Reacting to calls by Mukuba Airlines for Fastjet to partner with local operators for it to operate in Zambia or be stopped by the government, Bodin said the airline that would start operations in Zambia by February 1 would in its second phase set up Fastjet Zambia to be operated by and for the Zambian public.
“The ownership structure of Fastjet Zambia will embrace Zambians. We will energetically explore ways in which Zambian investors can be involved in our activities and successes either directly or through the Zambian stock exchange. We see our future in Zambia as one that has a mixed ownership structure with Zambians playing a significant part,” he said, adding that airline had employed over 150 Tanzanians.
Bodin said Fastjet Zambia would dramatically reduce air travel prices and employ hundreds of Zambian staff while assisting in the growth of commercial and tourist links into the country.
“The second part of the plan is to build a Zambian airline (likely to be called ‘Fastjet Zambia’) that will be operated by and for the Zambian public. It will follow the same sort of model that we have successfully followed in Tanzania where Fastjet Tanzania is fully incorporated,” Bodin said.
He said Fastjet Tanzania had trained Tanzanian pilots to fly modern Airbus jets at a cost of over US$30,000 per pilot.
Bodin said the airline sees an under-served population, where flying was difficult, expensive and less than operationally efficient.
“Our experience in Tanzania suggests that we can dramatically lower the cost of flying, which in turn will stimulate the aviation market and truly democratise air travel in Zambia,” said Bodin.
In a press statement, Mukuba Airlines chairperson Mwansa Chalwe stated that Fastjet was bent on reaping aviation opportunities in Zambia without tangible benefits to the locals.
“Fastjet started by taking over the East African-based Fly540 airline which was owned by Lonhro in 2012. It has been attempting to expand in the rest of Africa ever since. Its attempts to enter South African domestic market have been stalled due to objections by local operators there and the government has supported them,” he stated.
“Mukuba would like to appeal to other Zambian operators to join us in the crusade to appeal to government not to allow Fastjet to set up shop in Zambia as local operator as it is not in the country’s interest. Mukuba Airlines is of the view that multinationals like Fastjet should be made to partner with local operators instead of killing local entrepreneurs in the industry through their financial muscle.”
Chalwe further stated that Zambia should follow examples of Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe where foreign investors were encouraged to partner with credible locals in the same industry.
Chalwe stated that Mukuba Airlines was in its final stages of the standard five phase International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) Air Operating Certificate (AOC) licensing process through the department of civil aviation.
Fastjet recently launched direct flights between Lusaka and Dar es Salaam to commence on February 1 with a record low fare of K450 one way.
From : Postzambia
By Edwin Mbulo in Livingstone
15 January 2014