Wednesday, July 10, 2013

► MALAWI: Malawi Airlines to launch with a B737-800, Q400; outlines planned network.

Malawi flagMalawi Airlines, successor to the now defunct Air Malawi Ltd, has outlined its planned initial route network and its fleet, which has now been revealed to consist of a Boeing 737-800 and a Bombardier Q400. The aircraft are to be sourced from majority shareholder Ethiopian Airlines (ET).

Air Malawi
RIP Air Malawi 1964 - 2013
According to Mr Jimmy Lipunga, the head of Malawi's Public Private Partnership Commission (PPPC) which is overseeing the deal, the airline will target Johannesburg, Harare, Lusaka, Dar-es-Salaam and Luanda while domestically it will connect Lilongwe, Blantyre, Mzuzu and Karonga.

Most interestingly of all, in the medium term, he added, the airline would explore intercontinental flights to new destinations "such as Sao Paulo in Brazil" to take advantage of increasing Brazilian interest within the Southern Africa. Given Ethiopian's stake in the airline and its drive to develop a Southern African hub, the statement does in fact make sense. 

Following the ASKY Airlines (KP) model that has worked so well for the airline in West Africa, the likelihood of a second roll-out using the same model in Southern Africa is entirely plausible. With Brazil playing a significant role in developing Northern Mozambique and Malawi and Mozambique cooperating on a number of projects, including the development of the Nacala and Beira rail corridors, the Mtwara corridor and the Shire–Zambezi waterway, the potential for business is there as well.

On an added note, Mr Lipunga explained that the delay in launching the airline - originally set for July 1 - was as a result of a disagreement over the airline's name, originally slated to be Air Malawi 2012 Ltd, but changed to Malawi Airlines as a means of revamping the brand while simultaneously protecting the new one from what he termed "predatory creditors".

The BNL Times reports that Mr Lipunga said despite Malawi’s wish to maintain the name "Air Malawi", the country’s negotiating team became sympathetic with the line of reasoning advanced by Ethiopian Airlines, hence their yielding to having the name changed.

In a report in the Ethiopian business journal, The Reporter, Ethiopian credited the successful outcome of the negotiations to a team sourced from Ernest & Young Ethiopia, who were previously successful in negotiating the setting up of ASKY Airlines in Togo.

Ernest and Young Ethiopia is currently in discussions with two other African governments who are seeking consulting service on establishing similar joint ventures for their national carriers.