African low-cost airline fastjet's first flight from Dar es Salaam to Mbeya took off today, building on the success of its established Tanzanian network with the launch of its fifth domestic destination in Tanzania.
Flights between Mbeya's new Songwe Airport and Dar es Salaam's Julius Nyerere International Airport will operate three times a week on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, flying fastjet's Airbus A319 jet aircraft, the firm said in a statement.
Flights will depart Dar es Salaam at 06h15, and land in Mbeya at 7h35, with a flight time of 1 hour 20 minutes.
The return flight to Dar es Salaam departs at 8h15, landing at 9h35. As consumer demand for this route grows, fastjet expects to increase the frequency of flights between the two cities.
"We've had a huge demand from customers to add flights to Mbeya to our schedule and we have worked closely with the Tanzanian Government, the local civil aviation authority and Songwe Airport authorities to make this new route possible," says Ed Winter, fastjet CEO. "We would not have been able to do this without the significant time, effort and financial investment that government authorities have made in building Songwe Airport's infrastructure and runway to comply fully with international aviation standards."
Tickets for the Dar es Salaam-Mbeya route have been on sale since late August 2013, with fastjet offering one-way fares from Tsh 32,000 excluding fees and government taxes, with the promise that the earlier the booking is made, the lower the fare.
Bookings can be made online at www.fastjet.com where the cheapest fares are guaranteed, through any fastjet office or through travel agents. Payment for tickets can be made with cash, online with a credit card or through Mpesa and Tigo Pesa.
"Seats on this new route are selling exceptionally quickly - with our first flights to and from Mbeya over 90% full - showing that Tanzanians are welcoming this new fastjet service with open arms," says Winter. "fastjet's commitment to low-cost airfares means that anyone can now afford to fly to Mbeya for leisure or business, rather than having to endure long, uncomfortable journeys by road or rail."
Winter emphasises that Mbeya is an important destination for fastjet because the newly-developed Songwe Airport serves not only the city of Mbeya, but also the densely populated cross-border regions of northern Zambia and Malawi, giving consumers in those regions the freedom to choose low-cost air travel as well.
"fastjet is building a comprehensive national and regional network with Dar es Salaam as our main hub with routes to Kilimanjaro, Zanzibar, Mwanza and now Mbeya, as we continue with our plans to become the first pan-African low-cost airline," he says. "We are ready to fly anywhere in Tanzania that has the infrastructure to accept our A319 jet aircraft, because we know that the existing airlines on these routes are charging passengers outrageously expensive fares – simply because there are no other airlines for passengers to fly with."
Winter says fastjet's route from to Dar es Salaam's Julius Nyerere International Airport to South Africa's O.R. Tambo International Airport, which launched in October, is already running smoothly three times each week, unsettling the monopoly operator, South African Airways, which charged inflated fares on this route simply because there was no competition.
"We are continually investing in relationships that will see us expanding our international network from Dar es Salaam to destinations such as Lusaka, Nairobi, Lilongwe and Entebbe, where there is currently no effective competition, passengers are underserved, and fares are overpriced. Passengers in the region are definitely ready for an alternative," he concludes.
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