Stelios' fastJet sets date for Africa take-off

FastJet, the new budget African airline brand that easyJet founder Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou is trying to get off the ground, has chosen Airbus A319 aircraft and says it could be flying passengers by October.

The airline came about after a reverse takeover, finalised last month, in which infrastructure group Lonrho put its existing African aviation business — focusing on Kenya, Ghana and Tanzania — into AIM-listed cash shell Rubicon. Sir Stelios took a 5 per cent stake.

FastJet said yesterday that it will lease at least five Airbus A319 in the next six months and up to 15 within a year. Rubicon's chief executive Ed Winter, who previously worked at British Airways' budget offshoot Go, said: "The decision to launch with the Airbus A319 enables us to expand rapidly [with] passenger numbers doubling from current levels within six months."

Africa's aviation industry is valued at an annual $56bn (£35.7bn) but is known for a poor safety record and unreliability.