Sir Stelios's Fastjet to bring low-cost flights to Africa
EasyJet breathes a sigh of relief as former chairman leaves European market to bring budget airline to Africa
EASYJET founder Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou moved a step closer to launching a low-cost airline in Africa today.
Sir Stelios, who quit his role as chairman of EasyJet but remains the company's number one shareholder and still owns the 'Easy' brand through his private company EasyGroup, announced his plans to launch a new budget carrier called Fastjet last September.
The announcement caused friction with EasyJet directors at the time, who were quick to point out that their former boss had signed an agreement in October 2011 not to "acquire an interest in any other airline" in the European economic area or Switzerland for two years, in return for £300,000 annually for five years.
But today Sir Stelios announced that he will be working with a company called Rubicon, which bought the Africa-based airline Fly540 in May. He and Rubicon will transform Fly540, which currently operates in Kenya, Tanzania, Angola and Ghana using 10 aircraft, into a low-cost carrier with more jets.
Rubicon has acquired exclusive rights to the 'Fastjet' brand for at least ten years, as well as consultancy advice from Sir Stelios. In return Sir Stelios will receive a royalty of 0.5 per cent of revenues and five per cent shares in Rubicon.
In a statement published on Fastjet's website today, Sir Stelios said it was another "small but significant step" in bringing the "dream of low cost air travel to millions of people in Africa", which he describes as "the aviation industry's last frontier".
He hopes that by cutting fares he can encourage people who have never previously travelled by air to fly. "For Africa, with its densely populated cities separated by great distances, this means a potential new market of millions," he added.
Sir Stelios is likely to become a director of Rubicon and Ed Winter, a former chief operating officer of EasyJet, will become chief executive.
According to the Financial Times, Fastjet could possibly launch services in Ghana in just three months. ·