TRADE partners in the region have welcomed the start of a second daily Fastjet flight between Johannesburg and Victoria Falls, adding much-needed airline seat capacity over peak dates.
Fastjet’s extra frequency also replaces some of the capacity lost from South Africa owing to the cancellation of flights by British Airways (operated by Comair), which has recently gone into liquidation.
Africa Albida Tourism Chief Executive, Ross Kennedy, said Fastjet’s new frequencies were “important for Destination Vic Falls and Africa’s Eden” (Africa’s Eden is the joint destination marketing campaign involving several premier safari destinations in Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Zambia).
Other flights out of South Africa include, Airlink which currently serves Harare and Vic Falls from Cape Town and Livingstone from Johannesburg. Airlink also recently launched flights from Durban to Harare and flies from Nelspruit to Livingstone. Kenya Airways’ service to Nairobi from Cape Town via Vic Falls has also resumed.
Kennedy said: “We appreciate the airlines that have demonstrated confidence in the destination and welcome Fastjet’s extra seats just in time for the high season. Tourism and visitor numbers to Vic Falls are gradually recovering and we don’t want to lose momentum because of limited access. We are encouraged by the new routings that will make it easy to combine different destinations.”
Fastjet’s new flight
Fastjet’s new daily flight will be operated by a 50-seater Embraer Regional Jet ERJ 145 aircraft, departing JNB at 09h55. The return flight will leave Vic Falls at 14h35.
The airline said it remained committed to further developing tourism in Southern Africa.
Fastjet Zimbabwe spokesperson, Nunurai Ndawana, said: “We continue to support the development of Victoria Falls as a regional tourism hub by providing the much-needed seamless connections between the region’s top destinations. The second daily service between Victoria Falls and Johannesburg is in addition to our recently introduced service between Victoria Falls and Mbombela (Nelspruit) Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport (KMIA) and Maun in Botswana effective from June 30, 2022.”
“Working closely with our industry partners we continue to record growing demand for travel to the region. These second daily flights have been designed to provide international tourists arriving or departing from Johannesburg with additional options and seamless connections into the Victoria Falls,” she said.
John McMillan, CEO of Where to Africa Travel, a tour operator with offices in both Zimbabwe and South Africa, commented: “Well done Fastjet! This is great news for all operators in Victoria Falls.”
McMillan said: “In general terms, there has always been a bit of a capacity issue into Vic Falls, obviously it is a chicken-and-egg scenario for airlines.”
To help gauge just how much seat capacity Vic Falls could absorb in the future, McMillan estimated there to be approximately 2 500 formal rooms (around 5 000 beds) and said 60 – 65% occupancies would be considered “good” in any destination. Most guests tend to spend 2.5 – 3 nights in Vic Falls, he added.
“At least four or five new lodges have opened during the Covid years and Vic Falls had a mini tourism boom in 2019. That has helped to increase capacity of formal rooms in the Falls. There is also a lot of informal accommodation, such as guesthouses and Airbnbs.
“Right now, with two Fastjet flights per day, there are nowhere near enough seats. But, if they can get the balance right, there certainly is an opportunity (for more airline seat capacity) [without which] I think we are going to battle to get enough people into Vic Falls.”
According to McMillan, as much as 70% of business to Vic Falls comes from long-haul source markets, led by the US. He said: “Now we have Ethiopian coming in, too. Recently, we welcomed the launch of Eurowings, which comes via Windhoek. That is another lovely connection! You can combine any safari destination. Fastjet has also put on flights from KMIA to Vic Falls, and to Maun from Vic Falls.
“These are lovely, as you can twin Vic Falls and Kruger (Kruger National Park), or Maun and Vic Falls. Or, customers generally do ‘The Golden Triangle’ – Cape Town, Kruger or Botswana and Vic Falls. They generally come into Cape Town or Johannesburg, so Johannesburg is still a very, very key hub. These other airlines coming in are also great. It all helps – Fastjet, Kenya Airways, and thank goodness for Airlink.”