Competition in the Southern African region is gearing up with the news that South Africa's only-remaining low-cost carrier, FlySafair (FA, Johannesburg O.R. Tambo), has received route rights to 11 new international destinations, including long-sought approval to serve Windhoek International in Namibia.

The Air Services Licensing Council of South Africa (ASLC) also has approved FlySafair's June 2022 application to operate flights from Cape Town International and Johannesburg O.R. Tambo to Gaborone (Botswana), Livingstone and Lusaka (Zambia), Luanda 4 De Fevereiro (Angola), Maputo (Mozambique), and Victoria Falls (Zimbabwe). In addition, the airline has received approval for frequencies from Johannesburg to Bulawayo (Zimbabwe), Nairobi Jomo Kenyatta (Kenya), and Mahé in Seychelles, as well as between Cape Town and Windhoek. Its application for routes between Johannesburg and Harare International (Zimbabwe), Windhoek, and Zanzibar (Tanzania) and additional frequencies to Mauritius (where it already operates twice weekly) are still pending.

"While this is a big milestone, there is still a fair amount of work ahead of us from an operational perspective," stated Executive Manager and Chief Marketing Officer Kirby Gordon. "With the ASLC approvals in hand, FlySafair can now engage the relevant airport and civil aviation authorities in each market and begin planning its flight schedules."

The budget carrier will increase capacity and competition on regional destinations within Southern Africa, many of which have been constrained by the departures of previous route right holders, including Comair (South Africa), South African Airways, and Mango Airlines.

Since the beginning of 2022, FlySafair has added four new B737-800s to its current schedule with one more on the way in January 2023, the airline said. The carrier is gradually up-gauging its fleet from B737-400s.

"While the new capacity forms part of the airline's long-term growth plans, it's expected that the additional seats will help to stabilise domestic flight prices going into the busy holiday season," Gordon said.

FlySafair launched its first international flight to Mauritius on March 8, 2022. The route was first awarded at the end of 2019 but had to be postponed twice due to COVID-19 travel bans. The airline's regional expansion plans were further frustrated when the South African Department of Transport delayed for more than 12 months the re-appointment of the ASLC after its three-year term expired in March 2021. Critics said the move had benefited current route holders South African Airways (SA, Johannesburg O.R. Tambo), which is re-building its regional network since emerging from bankruptcy protection, and Airlink (South Africa) (4Z, Johannesburg O.R. Tambo) which has a network of 25 regional destinations.

Airlink recently bought 40% of FlyNamibia (WV, Windhoek Eros), Namibia's only remaining scheduled carrier after the demise of Air Namibia, leaving the partners with a lucrative monopoly between the neighbouring countries. Still, apart from FlySafair, CemAir (5Z, Johannesburg O.R. Tambo) is also trying to muscle in, having applied for twice-daily frequencies from Johannesburg to Windhoek (Namibia).

CemAir has also applied for the following: