By Sarah Young
LONDON (Reuters) – A phone call from budget airline pioneer Stelios Haji-Ioannou, a little internet research and less than three years later fastjet has targeted $500 million in annual revenue from a 24-aircraft business across eastern and southern Africa by 2018.
“Stelios gave me a call. We spent an afternoon Googling Africa, African aviation, African economics,” Fastjet Chief Executive Ed Winter told Reuters on Wednesday.
Now Fastjet is seeking to replicate in Africa the model of Haji-Ioannou’s other airline project, easyJet.
Haji-Ioannou, more commonly known as Stelios, founded low-cost carrier easyJet in 1995 but quit the board in 2010 after a row over strategy. It was there that he met Winter, who was easyJet’s chief operating officer before leaving in 2006.
With just three aircraft, fastjet is currently a loss-making minnow listed on London’s junior market with a capitalisation of 31 million pounds ($52.2 million).
Underpinning confidence in its expansion plans, however, is the success of its Tanzania operations, which Winters expects to become cash-generative in the near future, having taken its maiden flight in 2012.
“We’ve actually managed to prove the low-cost model works in Africa,” said Winters, who owns 2.5 percent of the company.
“We’ve managed to stimulate the market, we’ve pushed the yield up to where it needs to be and the one thing we now need to do is utilise our aircraft a little bit harder.”