29/11/2012 05:58 GMT | Updated 29/11/2012 06:02 GMT

Sir Stelios's Fastjet Successfully Launches Its First Flight On Time

Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou's Fastjet - the low-cost African Airline - has successfully completed its first two commercial flights, launching the new airline on schedule.

The first Fastjet A319 left Dar es Salaam’s Julius Nyerere airport at 6 am Central Africa Time at almost full capacity with more than half the passengers on board paying USD$20 (excluding taxes and charges) for their seat.

A second A319 carrying more customers on the airline’s second route from Dar es Salaam to Kilimanjaro in Tanzania set off later the same morning.

The flights mark the culmination of more than a year's worth of planning for Sir Stelios's team; FastJet recently raided European low-cost rivals Ryanair, EasyJet and African airline Air Uganda to expand its executive team with Rob Bishton joining as operations director from EasyJet, Kyle Haywood, former chief executive of Air Uganda, joining as general manager of Africa, and former Ryanair executive Harun Cordan assuming the role of group chief pilot and head of flight operations.

Chief commercial officer Richard Bodin commented: "Today's flights to Kilimanjaro and Mwanza mark the start of a new, revolutionary, smart way to travel for African people, and our first steps towards becoming a low cost, reliable pan-African airline."

Fastjet is said to be happy with the sales of tickets since it launched them two weeks ago, with flights currently booked into February 2013 already.

Earlier in the week, the launch of Fastjet was celebrated at an industry event at Julius Nyerere airport, during which the deputy minister of transport for Tanzania Charles Tizeba said: "The government recognises the need for the low cost air operations and its immense contribution to the development of the air transport industry in the country and the overall development of our economy."

Sir Stelios’s easyGroup Holdings owns 5% of FastJet and has the option to acquire another 10% at a price of 5.2p per share until 2 August 2014. Sir Stelios is also a director of the airline.

Airbus forecasts that total passenger traffic in Africa will grow at an average yearly rate of 5.7% between 2010 and 2030, well above the 4.8% world average growth rate.

It also expects Africa to deliver more than 1,100 new passenger aircraft and 4% of world deliveries in the next 20 years to satisfy growing demand.