easyGroup Closer to African Airline Launch

The head of easyGroup and the founder of low-cost airline, easyjet, sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou, saw his plans to launch a new, Africa-based, low-cost airline take a step closer to fruition today.

The new airline, to be known as Fastjet, is to be developed on Lonrho Aviation’s existing platform, under the Fly540 brand. The brand carried more than 525,000 passengers between October 2010 and December 2011. Investment company, Rubicon Diversified Investments, has agreed to purchase the business from Lonrho for $85.7m, and part of the transaction involves sir Stelios’ easyGroup Holdings owning a 5 percent stake in Rubicon.

The new African airline venture will be headed by Ed Winter, who was previously chief executive of British Airways’ low-cost carrier, Go, and chief operating officer of Easyjet.

A statement said that Fastjet will operate under a licensing agreement with easyGroup, utilising the Lonrho Aviation route network with modern jet aircraft operating to European standards. It will maintain Lonrho’s four-year programme of developing operational hubs in East, West and South West Africa with strategic hubs in Kenya, Tanzania, Ghana and Angola, ‘providing an unparalleled route network and operating platform to launch across Africa’.

Lonrho executive chairman, David Lenigas, said: ‘Lonrho has completed its investment programme into its aviation division and has successfully created a unique aviation network in Africa. The next step in the growth of the business requires a world-class aviation team to develop the business to meet the growing demand for a scheduled regional airline in Africa.

I am delighted that Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou and easyGroup have studied this market and concluded that the Lonrho aviation division provides a unique entry platform for the development of a true low cost carrier for Africa, to be branded, FastJet.

The combination of Lonrho’s experience in Africa, the aviation experience of Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou and easyGroup, the route network and operations already established by Lonrho Aviation across Africa, and Rubicon’s cash resources will enable Fastjet to quickly develop its low cost airline.’