Too many people in Africa happen to fall within the low-income bracket. Thus, one would expect budget airlines to be commonplace on this continent, catering for the masses. This is not so. Budget airlines are rather common in high-income countries of Western Europe, North America, India and many Asian countries.
The relatively few airlines that ply major African cities do so at rather exorbitant fares. As of 21 Nov 2011 7:30am GMT:
a return flight (19 to 26 Dec 2011) from Accra (Ghana) to Abidjan (Cote d’Ivoire) costs $538 on Emirates or $567 on ASky Airline (an Ethiopian Airline subsidiary). The distance is only 259 miles and the flight duration only 1 hour.
Compare this to a return flight on the same dates from London Stansted Airport (UK) to Dublin (Ireland) for a fare of only $78 on Ryanair (a budget airline) or $173 on Aer Lingus. The duration of this flight is 1hr 10 mins.
The very low fare offered by the Irish budget airline, RyanAir, demonstrates how low air fare can go when the market conditions are right.
A low-cost carrier or low-cost airline (also known as a no-frills, discount or budget carrier or airline) is an airline that offers generally low fares in exchange for eliminating many traditional passenger services. (Wikipedia). There are very few of them in Africa with most catering for domestic destinations within their respective national boundaries only. They are:
- Egypt: Air Arabia Egypt
- Kenya: Fly540
- Nigeria: Aero Contractors
- Morocco: Jet4You, Air Arabia Maroc
- South Africa: Kulula, 1Time, Mango, Velvet Sky
- Tunisia: Karthago Airlines
A change in the status quo?
Fly540 seems ready to position itself as a pan-African budget airline. As of now, Fly540 already flies to about 20 destinations in these East African countries: Burundi, Kenya, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda.
In 2008, the airline opened-up its pan-African ambitions in a report by Ugandan newspaper, The Monitor:
“…we will open up Kigali and then head to West Africa. Ghana will be the hub for West African region. In Southern Africa, we shall use Angola as our hub, so it will become a pan African low cost airline”.
I didn’t give much weight to their lofty dream until I saw a Fly540-branded jet take-off on the runway of Kotoka International Airport in Accra Ghana on 18th November 2011. While Fly540 Ghana has not commenced revenue flights as of now, they plan to do so by the end of 2011 and have already taken delivery of aircraft, recruited staff and obtained the necessary licences.
Senegal and Equatorial Guinea are among the first destinationsto be serviced by Fly540 Ghana.