FASTJET Zimbabwe has discontinued flights into Botswana’s Maun resort from Victoria Falls after struggling with subdued demand, according to official reports seen by businessdigest.
The Victoria Falls–Maun flights were part of a broad route expansion strategy by Fastjet over a year ago, under its ambition to connect southern Africa’s exclusive resorts, which are mostly serviced by charter flights.
Other routes launched at the time, included flights into South African leisure destinations.
In an interview with businessdigest, Nunurai Ndawana, spokesperson at Fastjet, confirmed the developments.
However, he said the airline would maintain a footprint on the route through charter flights.
“Scheduled service from Victoria Falls to Maun was suspended due to suppressed demand on the route,” Ndawana said this week.
“We will continue to operate on ad hoc and charter flights on that route ensuring continued connectivity.”
Tawanda Gusha, chief executive officer at the Airports Company of Zimbabwe (ACZ), said Fastjet’s withdrawal was a blow to Zimbabwe’s ambition to network the region and bolster tourist arrivals.
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However, Gusha said ACZ would continue working with airlines to see how connections on low traffic routes like Maun will be maintained without affecting operations.
“Although we wanted to increase connectivity, the numbers on that route are low,” he said.
“Of course, it is a loss because we want a wider connectivity to the region. We need to think outside the box and have those airlines servicing the Victoria Falls route to fill in the gap because they use smaller aircraft. FastJet was using a much bigger aircraft,” Gusha said.
He spoke as Fastjet scaled up its regional offensive, announcing on Monday it had introduced additional frequencies on the Bulawayo–Johannesburg route after locating opportunities in leisure and business travel.
The new weekday flights increase the daily service to 12 weekly flights from Bulawayo to Johannesburg, introducing choice and flexibility of travel between the two cities, the airline said in a statement.
It said the additional weekday morning service would give travellers the option of a day trip, adding value and flexibility to their travel plans.
“We continue to demonstrate our commitment to enhanced connectivity in Zimbabwe. As we approach the holiday season, these new frequencies will provide additional capacity between these two cities of significant importance in the southern African region,” Ndawana said.
Vivian Ruwuya, chief commercial officer at the airline, said: “Aviation is a catalyst in developing a destination.
“By adding these weekday frequencies, we are contributing to the growth of tourism and commerce in Zimbabwe and South Africa.
“As Fastjet, we are committed to connectivity and are delighted to offer the Bulawayo-Johannesburg traveller the choice of a day’s trip flight for business or leisure”.