Fastjet, will it open up cheap pan-African Holidays?

Does the launch of Africa’s first low-cost airline promise to open Africa's skies and cut costs for tourists who can only access Africa by purchasing expensive air tickets?

Fastjet, part-owned by easyJet founder Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou, will operate its first scheduled flight in Tanzania this week and plans to expand first across East Africa and then to Ghana and Angola.

Tourists could soon combine safaris in Kenya with gorilla treks in Uganda and end the holiday on  the beach in Zanzibar without excessive flight costs.

“African economies are among the fastest growing in the world, and a lot of that growth is happening in the middle classes,” said Ed Winter, fastjet’s CEO and former chief operating officer of both Go and easyJet.

“But they have simply not been properly served with options to fly to business meetings, to fly home to see their relatives at Christmas, to take their families on holidays. We are here to fill that gap.”

Fastjet has three 156-seat Airbus A319s at its first hub in Dar es Salaam, initially serving Kilimanjaro and Mwanza, a major Tanzanian city on Lake Victoria.

Before the end of the year, Mr Winter plans to start the first international flight, to Entebbe in Uganda, and then to Nairobi, Kenya, by Easter, where the airline's second hub will be based. Twelve more leased A319s will be delivered by the end of 2013, he said.

“There will of course be benefits not just to East Africans, but to tourists as well,” he said. Flights already connect to Kilimanjaro, for visitors attempting to reach the summit Africa’s highest mountain.

Future destinations include the Indian Ocean resorts of Mombasa and Zanzibar, and Entebbe and Kigali, which would give tourists cheaper access to treks to see mountain gorillas.

“We know that improved air services are critical to opening up our economy to development, and we can be sure that infrastructure will be improved,” Charles Tizeba, Tanzania’s deputy transport minister, said at the fastjet launch in Dar es Salaam