Kampala — As the race to capture African skies by several regional airlines moves into higher gear, Fly540, a promising East African airline, is positioning itself to take on the continent's established airlines.
Fly540 is a Kenya-based airline which became the third operator on the Entebbe-Nairobi route in February.
The carrier kicked off with low-cost flights compared to Kenya Airways and Air Uganda, which plied the route prior to its entry.
Now, Fly 540 is promising to extend services, to other African regions with an ambition to become Africa's first budget airline.
Ms Jackie Arkle, the marketing manager, told Business Power in interview recently that Fly540 under the 530 Aviation trade mark is working towards becoming the first low-cost airline serving Africa.
The airline has started off by spreading its wings to cover Uganda, after establishing a nationwide presence in Kenya and will spread them further, to Tanzania. The Northern town of Mwanza will be its first destination, in Tanzania opening a low-cost carrier for tourists and businesspeople travelling between Kenya and Tanzania.
"Mwanza first because there is a lot of business travel there. The traffic is very heavy and because people are flying quite frequently, and for them to do so, they also need to save."
According to Ms Arkle, the plan is to move into Tanzania in October and subsequently add Dar-es-Salaam, Zanzibar, Moshi, and Kilimanjaro before going to Angola. "For now we know, it will be Nairobi-Mwanza, but if there is market and demand for Entebbe- Mwanza, we will defiantly consider it."
"Then, 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," Ms Arkle said at the airline's office in Kampala, adding that their Angola offices are almost ready.
The company is aiming at becoming the first African airline, with hubs in three quadrants in Africa. "We want to go to these markets, because there is no Pan-African airline and a low cost one, yet people want to have an alternative airline that is not going to chip into their budget but offer them the services they require. So, we taking the bold step and going to do that," she said.
Fly540 projects that it could achieve this ambitious dream in about eight years with the full backing of Lonrho Africa.
Lonrho is a pan-African company with a diverse portfolio ranging from primary infrastructure to transportation, support services, hotels and natural resources.
In 2006, Lonrho acquired a 49 per cent stake of the issued share capital of the airline for US$1.5 million (Shs2.4 billion).
The company is listed on both the London and Johannesburg stock exchanges and has market capitalisation and assets worth of Â£140 million, (Shs450 billion) and Â£240 million (about Shs772 billion) respectively.
It is this robust financial muscle that the airline is banking on to spread it wings across Sub-Saharan Africa. Commenting on the airline's Uganda operations, Ms Arkle said, demand for the low cost airline service was heading for the sky after picking up slowly between February and March.
"We have picked up on sales and so far, have flown 7,000 passengers since we started operations on this route and it's growing on a monthly basis," she said.
The growth is attributed to the teams doubled efforts in marketing the airlines concept of low cost fares, to more Ugandan travellers in Kampala and Jinja districts.