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TNW pick of the week: Prove yourself, trade tells fastjet
Monday, 05 August 2013
Tickets are on sale, the date is set but fastjet still has to prove itself before the South African travel trade will be comfortable booking its soon-to-be-launched flights between Johannesburg and Dar es Salaam.

Tickets went on sale on July 31 with fares starting at US$100 (R985), excluding taxes and charges. Initially, the airline said flights would operate three times a week, with the first flight scheduled for September 27. “As demand for seats on fastjet’s A319s is expected to be high, the company intends to increase the frequency of flights in line with market demand,” the airline said.

Jonathan Gerber, director of TAG, says he would book clients on fastjet if it becomes a viable alternative to SAA. He believes fastjet still has to prove itself in terms of route longevity, route safety, on-time performance and schedule. “We have to see what they look and feel like in SA. This is not an easy business and they’re not exactly jumping on to a hugely profitable route.”

Currently, SAA is the only airline serving this route. Comair launched a five-times-a-week service between Johannesburg and Dar es Salaam in October 2010 but reduced it to three flights after just six months and cancelled the service shortly after.
Jonathan doesn’t believe there is sufficient demand for another carrier on the route but says low-cost carriers pride themselves on creating a market. “It will be interesting to see the mix of clientele they attract. From what I see and hear this route is not exactly ‘flying’ at present.” He adds that the  $100 fares will not be viable. “It’s unsustainable and, quite honestly, a marketing ploy to attract attention and get cash in the bank.”

Rod Rutter, coo of XL Travel, agrees. He believes fastjet’s entry will result in the route being overtraded. “If the price is right clients will use them and also connect to Nairobi and Zanzibar. I am not sure if business travellers will be encouraged by the low fares and limited schedule.” He adds that the SA public today are far more cautious in dealing with a new airline.

Fastjet ceo, Ed Winter, said the airline was responding to “huge consumer demand” and providing an alternative and affordable link between Dar es Salaam and Johannesburg. “We expect our lower fares to stimulate a huge increase in the numbers of passengers travelling on this route, as has been the case on our domestic routes in Tanzania.”

However, Rod believes corporate travellers will still use SAA into Africa. “They have an extensive network and more modern equipment as well as good connections and schedules.”

Another challenge is that fastjet currently only sells tickets through its website. But this is set to change, says Richard Bodin, chief commercial officer of fastjet. “We are in advanced talks with a GSA for a pan-country sales channel.” He adds that fastjet sees the trade as a critical distribution channel and that it aims to sell through a GDS in time for the September launch.

For more on this story refer to TNW August 7.
By : etnw
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