Low-cost airliner Fastjet launched daily flights between Bulawayo and Harare as its executives hailed the Government for granting them the route after a three-year wait.
Fastjet is the first low-cost player to operate the Harare-Bulawayo route.
The maiden flight landed at Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo International Airport just before 10AM to kick off proceedings of the official launch held at the facility.
Speaking at the launch, Fastjet Accountable Manager Mr Ed Berry said the flight would boost business, tourism and at the same time service the people of Bulawayo.
“It’s been a long haul, we first applied for the Harare-Bulawayo route in 2015 and now eventually this milestone is happening. We’re here and we are here to stay and we are here to come more often,” he said.
“Over the last two-and-a-half years that Fastjet has been in this country, we have been flying Zimbabweans from Harare to Victoria Falls, Johannesburg, Dar es Salaam and now at last to Bulawayo.”
Mr Berry said Bulawayo has a lot to offer in the tourism, business and other sectors and Fastjet would help boost those sectors.
“With more than a hundred flights a week, we are doing many things. Ninety percent on time performances and we feel Fastjet is the airline for businessmen, tourism and for the general public here in Bulawayo,” he said.
Fastjet intends to grow further in Zimbabwe, first of all we will be applying for more routes. We would like to start a second flight a day on this route as soon as possible and then move on to a third flight if need be.”
Fastjet Head of Commercial Mr Peter Barry said the granting of the Harare-Bulawayo route was in sync with President Mnangagwa’s “Zimbabwe is open for business” mantra.
“Thank you to his Excellency President Mnangagwa’s commitment that Zimbabwe is really open for business, that is our take on it. We are now in Bulawayo so Fastjet is open for business,” he said.
Bulawayo Provincial Affairs Minister Angeline Masuku said the launch of the Harare-Bulawayo route couldn’t have come at a better time.
“There was no other convenient time that it (Fastjet) jets into Bulawayo except this time when our President is calling for investment in Zimbabwe, that Zimbabwe is the best destination for business. Zimbabwe is open for business and indeed Bulawayo is open for business,” said Minister Masuku.
“This is the component of business — connection. Bulawayo is getting connected as we speak.”
Minister Masuku expressed hope that Fastjet will expand its operations and connect Bulawayo to different parts of the world.
“This is one of the fruits of the new dispensation that has brought Fastjet to Bulawayo because as I went through their paper, I realised that they had negotiated for a long time to have their wings fly to Bulawayo and it never happened.
“It has happened because of the new dispensation and may I say we are all part of the new dispensation, you are part of the new dispensation and we thank you very much,” she said.
“As people of Bulawayo, we have always been said to be cry babies, now we stopped crying in November last year and it is all smiles in Bulawayo now. The new dispensation has brought smiles to Bulawayo and this is one of the biggest smiles that the new dispensation has brought to Bulawayo.”
The Minister of Transport and Infrastructure Development, Dr Joram Gumbo, said the opening up of the skies would result in improved ease of doing business in the country.
“The net effect of this should be reflected in increase in tourism and business between our two cities spawning from enhanced connectivity to global supply chains,” he said in a speech read on his behalf by Mr Allowance Sango, the Director of Aviation and Rail Transport in the ministry.
“We also envisage growth of downstream industries and increased job creation in Bulawayo and surrounding regions due to the overspill from increased business at Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo Airport.”
Dr Gumbo said the expansion of operations in the country by Fastjet shows the confidence that the airline has in the country.
“As a Ministry, we greatly welcome the introduction of the service between Harare and Bulawayo by Fastjet, as it is in keeping with the policy enunciated by His Excellency, the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe, Cde ED Mnangagwa that ‘Zimbabwe is open for business.”
The Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe Director of Airports, Mr Tawanda Gusha, said Zimbabwe is open to all airlines that want to operate in the country.
Source – The Chronicle