LOW-COST airline flyAfrica Zimbabwe yesterday launched its Bulawayo-Johannesburg flight amid joy and optimism from businesspeople in Bulawayo.
The launch was described as a giant step towards the development of the city’s moribund industry and the economy.
Transport minister Obert Mpofu said the introduction of flyAfrica in Bulawayo would go a long way in easing travel challenges of the city’s residents.
“This development will go a long way in easing the travel challenges of our citizens, be they tourists, traders or investors and thereby increasing trade between our countries while also stimulating tourism, given improved connectivity,” he said.
Mpofu said it was his ministry’s mandate to develop the aviation industry, “thus it is our pleasure to welcome airlines that want to add to their current operations”.
“The introduction of new players in the market is in line with our policy of deregulating the air transport sector, a key enabler to economic development as air travel times are reduced and access to a wider marketplace is improved, leading to reduced airfares,” he said.
Mpofu commended flyAfrica for offering an airline that is affordable and stimulates demand to a new group of air travellers.
FlyAfrica, which was already servicing two routes, Harare-Johannesburg and Harare-Victoria Falls, will charge $178 for the Bulawayo-Johannesburg route.
Air Zimbabwe charges $380 on the same route. The owner of the airline, Chakanyuka Karase, said they would continue investing in Zimbabwe because they have confidence in the Zimbabwean market.
“We will continue being a low-cost airline in Zimbabwe and the region as a whole,” he said.
Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe (CAAZ) board chairman Themba Nyoni said the introduction of the airline in Bulawayo would boost the operating capacity of the Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo International Airport.
He said CAAZ would modernise equipment as well as improve facilities. CAAZ licensed the airline in August 2014.
It introduced its first aircraft —Z-FAA — in the same month to service the Victoria Falls-Johannesburg route, flying three times a week on Sunday, Wednesday and Friday.
In November 2014, flyAfrica launched an inaugural Harare-Johannesburg flight and charges $89 (including taxes) for a one way excursion.
According to the airline, plans are underway to expand the business into Mozambique, Zambia, Tanzania and Malawi after being granted three more licences to service the routes last year.
The airline said flyAfrica Namibia would take to the skies on March 2, the second airline in the flyAfrica group.
The airline operates in partnership with the Karase family’s Fresh Air and Mike Bond of the now defunct 1Time Airlines of South Africa.