The future of low cost carriers in Africa is bright. Just look at the base numbers: there are 1.1 billion people in Africa, which is some 15% of the world population and yet it also only accounts for 0.5% of the world’s aviation. All that adds up to latent demand and real opportunity.
The key to success is to understand customers’ needs and to adapt your offering to suit the local market. One size fits all solutions just don’t work in Africa. Rather, it’s important to look at introducing market-specific innovations in the aviation space.
For example, passengers in Zambia want special prices for small-scale freighting to ship their goods home quickly and affordably. And passengers in Tanzania want to be able to bring back freshwater fish. Responding to these needs, fastjet adapted and introduced special prices for freighting and adapted part of the aircraft hold to accommodate fish. To date, we’ve carried over 60,000 buckets of fish.
It’s therefore maybe not surprising that fastjet’s innovative approach has seen the airline winning the Transport Innovator Award for the second consecutive year at the 9th Transport Africa Awards 2016 held in Johannesburg, South Africa on 28 June 2016. The Transport Africa Awards set out to reward leaders in transportation who demonstrate an unparalleled ability to succeed, offer a competitive advantage and set standards of excellence in the sector.
We’re now also seeing increased sophistication in the African market. People are choosing their seats and are ready to pay a bit more for convenience or comfort. This shows that consumers are not only enjoying flying with us, they’re also maturing to the point that they are choosing to pay more to add comfort.
The lack of access to proper broadband remains a problem for the low cost carrier model in Africa. The Internet has not become the commercial force it has become in the West. Also the fact that the aviation markets are not yet liberalised and that the antiquated system of bilateral air service agreements still exists across the continent can be a challenge.
Although there has been some progress when it comes to the Yamoussoukro Declaration, which calls for the liberalisation of access to air transport markets in Africa, we’re certainly not seeing rapid changes. What we’ll see over the next three to five years is small pockets of liberalisation appearing on the map. It will most likely be a gradual adoption rather than a continent-wide revolution of the airspace across Africa.
Fuel is also an interesting subject in Africa. Obviously the cost of the raw product has come down across the global markets, and that’s a positive. However, aviation fuel is expensive in Africa as a result of the ground transport challenges of getting the fuel from the ports into the countries and the taxes applied to aviation fuel. That leads to a significant variation of the fuel cost from the very reasonable prices in Johannesburg to an eye-watering high price in the hills of Mbeya.
fastjet’s main aim remains to democratise air travel in Africa by making it more affordable for more people to fly to more destinations more often. Previously, many of our passengers were compelled to travel by time-consuming bus or train, or they didn’t travel at all. Now, they have the option to fly on fastjet.
The airline currently covers routes between Dar es Salaam, Mwanza, Kilimanjaro, Mbeya and Zanzibar, as well as internationally from Tanzania to Johannesburg, Lusaka, Harare, Entebbe and Nairobi. The airline also operates three routes from its Zimbabwe base between Harare, Victoria Falls and Johannesburg.
Editor’s Note: This post is part of our Fly Africa series where Amadeus partners in Africa share their experiences and strategies to serve the continent.