Monday, November 19, 2012

► MOZAMBIQUE: Mozambican airspace "supposedly" now open to all as LAM gets a B737-500, Embraer E190.

LAM Mozambique AirlinesDuring a speech on Friday to welcome the national carrier Linhas Aéreas de Moçambique LAM's (TM) latest aircraft - a Boeing 737-500 leased from GECAS (MSN: 29074 | C9-BAP) and an Embraer E190 (MSN? | C9-EMC) - Mozambican Transport and Communications Minister Paulo Zucula stated that Mozambique’s air space has been liberalised, and invited everyone that was interested in the sector to “come and invest, come and fly.”

The two aircraft in Maputo
The two new aircraft in Maputo on Friday.
The acquisition now brings LAM's fleet size up to seven aircraft - 3 x Embraer 190s (with another due in October 2013), one Boeing 737-500, and 3 x Bombardier Q400s - though only 2 are actually LAM property; the rest are leased. In fact, the new aircraft were acquired through an operational leasing system, in which another airline buys the aircraft and later leases them to LAM, which has provided USD850'000 to pay the first three monthly instalments.

The new aircraft now satisfy the criterion laid down by Mozambican deputy Transport and Communications Minister, Manuela Rebelo, in September for the opening up of Mozambique's highly restricted market,  who said that the liberalisation of Mozambique’s air space would depend on LAM receiving new equipment, thereby allowing it to hold its own against competition.

In his Friday speech, Minister Zucula noted:
I want to make use of this occasion to encourage all national airlines to take an active part in the development of the national economy in general and in tourism development in particular.

Kaya Airlines Embraer 120
Kaya Airlines Embraer 120 (viasa)
In what context the Minister was speaking, however, is unclear, as complaints about the country’s air space are not about 'liberalisation' itself, but about the excessive red tape involved in the process of acquiring operating licenses from the IACM (Mozambican Department of Civil Aviation). In June, the Confederação das Associações Económicas de Moçambique (the Confederation of Economic Associations of Mozambique (CTA))complained that the high number of procedures to obtain licenses restricts and discourages new players interested in setting up in Mozambique. In addition to the long waiting period, a new standby clearance period is required in order to obtain authorization from the Mozambican Ministry of Defence.

While Mozambique currently has 13 air carriers certified by the authorities: LAM Mozambique Express (Mex), Kaya Airlines, Helicopters Capital, CFA Mozambique, Unique Air Charter, Aerovisão of Mozambique, Safari Air, ETA Air Charter Ltd, Emilio Air Charter Ltd, CFM-TTA Sa, Aero-Servicos Lda Sarl and VR Cropsprayers, its domestic scene is still heavily skewed in favour of LAM and its wholly owned subsidiary Moçambique Expresso (MXE). Together, they are the sole operators of flights to the country's provincial capitals, often charging fares that are comparable to those of intercontinental flights.