The founder of low cost carrier EasyJet, Stelios Haji-Ioannou, is planning to invest US$500 million in a low cost airline headquartered in Ghana’s capital Accra.
“We could link Ghana to 10 or 15 different countries in West Africa,” said Ed Winter, former chief operating officer of EasyJet and a member of the management team of Stelios.
During an interview in Accra on Monday, he told Bloomberg that the team is there to conduct studies into launching the new airline, which would be called Fastjet. “We are looking at 15 aircraft with an investment value of US$500 million.”
Fastjet would fly around five million passengers a year in the West African region.
Stelios will soon announce the results of a feasibility study being done for Rubicon, a cash shell which raised 9 million pounds in December to fund the launch of Fastjet. The Financial Times reports that the study is expected to recommend that the new airline link around six West African countries to Accra.
If Fastjet works out, it will eventually be expanded across the region to become the first pan-African low cost carrier, based on Easyjet’s model, sources close to the study said.
Geoffrey White, CEO of Lonrho Plc, which operates the East African low cost airline Fly540 and which has a 12.7% stake in Rubicon, said he is looking to potentially partner with Stelios in its African operations.
“There’s a very serious plan to make Rubicon into a very serious low-cost carrier,” said David Lenigas, a Rubicon board member and chairman of Lonrho.
“One of the attractions is that West Africa is very poorly served other than with national carriers that don’t have the proper models to do regional low-cost service,” said White.
In December, Rubicon received exclusive branding rights for Fastjet from EasyGroup for 12 months in exchange for a payment of 480 000 pounds, a 5 per cent stake in the company and further royalty fees, the Financial Times reports.
Recently there has been enormous investment in West African airlines. The region has some of the world’s fastest growing economies – the International Monetary Fund projects that Ghana's economy will grow 13.5% this year. The International Civil Aviation Organization expects Africans to fly 8% more miles in 2012 and 8.3 % more in 2012, making the continent earth's fastest-growing for air travel behind Asia and the Middle East. And according to Airline Business magazine, 74% of intra-African routes have no more than one daily flight while around half of African city pairs are underserved.
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