Low-cost African carrier Fastjet is in negotiations to buy 1time and bring the popular, no-frills airline back into operation for the busy festive season.
The Lonrho subsidiary aims to become the first pan-African low-cost carrier, and has been in talks with 1time since last month.
This was before the airline’s business rescue plans failed and it was placed in provisional liquidation, Ed Winter, Fastjet’s CEO, said on Tuesday.
Fastjet has raised £16m since December last year to establish itself in Africa. Last week, it established a base for its operations in Tanzania.
"If this transaction goes ahead … we would hope to get 1time flying again in time for the Christmas holiday period," Mr Winter said.
" Many customers have had their plans dashed by the cessation of 1time’s services and the subsequent huge increases in fares by competitors ." He warned that the "time scales are extremely challenging" for the transaction as there was a court return date of December 11 on which the liquidation of 1time could be made final.
Aviwe Ndyamara, 1time’s provisional liquidator, said it might be possible to push out the court return date if there was sufficient progress made with Fastjet’s negotiations. He could motivate for the m aster’s office to extend the return date for the liquidation.
"It is likely that we will apply to postpone the return date in order to keep the air service licences in order while we are still in negotiations," Mr Ndyamara said.
"We could make an application to postpone the return date for a couple of months."
Fastjet was not the only company that has expressed interest in 1time. "We are not limiting proposals from other investors, we have received proposals from other investors," Mr Ndyamara said. He declined to name the other interested parties.
1time was placed in provisional liquidation last month after it amassed more than R450m in debt. It had sought protection from its creditors in August, when it entered business rescue proceedings.
Article continues on page two: "If we are to be a top, low-cost pan-African carrier, it would be unthinkable that we would be without a South African base. 1time is a great little airline and it just needs to be operated in a slightly different way with new equipment..."