Zimbabwe’s new airline Fresh Air believes it has identified a gap in the local market for low-cost air travel.
The airline is a joint venture between South African budget carrier 1time Airline and a registered Zimbabwean company Nu-Aero.
“Fresh Air will be the first low-cost carrier in Zimbabwe, where there is currently a vacuum in the aviation sector,” said Mike Bond, 1time Airline’s commercial director. “We believe they have a great opportunity to apply the most appropriate business model, namely the low-cost model, for the routes that it has been granted to operate.”
“The entry of a low-cost carrier in Zimbabwe has great potential, and we are proud to have launched into this partnership with 1time, who already has palpable successes in the no-frills market. We have absolutely no doubt that this business model will succeed as it is exactly what our emerging economy needs to maintain sustainability, and is an efficient way to connect families, businesses and tourist destinations,” commented Chakanyuka Karase, CEO of Fresh Air, in an official statement.
As part of the agreement, 1time will cease its current Johannesburg-Livingstone route in favour of flights between Johannesburg and Victoria Falls, which will subsequently become a Fresh Air operation.
“Our partnership with Nu-Aero is more strategic than looking to reduce costs, where we are looking to assist this fledging airline break into the domestic and regional market in and from Zimbabwe,” said Bond. “The JNB-VFA route is ideal to test this joint venture and offers additional opportunities, like Vic Falls-Harare as well as others, in the fullness of time.”
1time is facing tough times in the South African market and recently filed for business rescue, according to media reports. However, while the South African low-cost airline market may be congested, Bond said this is not the case in Zimbabwe.
The Zimbabwean government has recently announced its decision to revive Air Zimbabwe after it was forced to suspend the national carrier’s operations in February due to heavy debt. The decline of Air Zimbabwe has opened up the market in Zimbabwe for foreign carriers like Air Namibia and Emirates.
When asked if the flights offered by Fresh Air between Johannesburg and Victoria Falls would be cheaper than the previous service offered by 1time between Johannesburg and Livingstone, Bond said that this would not necessarily be the case as both routes are similar in distance. “The only cost savings may arise from the passenger perspectives if visa and yellow fever costs can be avoided when travelling to the Zimbabwean side [of Victoria Falls] instead of Zambia,” said Bond.