The highly anticipated relaunch of Zambia Airways has for the second time been deferred. The relaunch is now expected to take place in the third quarter of 2019.

The rebirth of Zambia Airways was initiated planned for October 2018 but was forced to be pushed to April 2019, a date which has also been deferred. This time around, Government hopes to finally put all logistics in place to enable it launch around the third quarter of this year.

Sources at the Ministry of Transport and Communications have revealed that there have been disagreements over the operations model for the airline submitted by the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC).

The sources said technocrats at the Ministry are objected to the type of aircrafts the IDC and its shareholder Ethiopian Airlines wants to purchase fearing that they may result in losses.

In its model submitted to the Ministry, the IDC wants Zambia Airways to build a fleet of 12 aircraft by 2028 using the US$30 million initial investment. It hopes to be transporting 1.9 million passengers by 2028 adding that “it will put in place a performance driven culture to ensure the airline is commercial viable.”

According to the plan, Zambia Airways will initially operate regional routes, subsequently expanding to intercontinental destinations in Europe, the Middle East and Asia.

The sources have revealed that the Zambian government prefers purchasing smaller aircrafts such as the Embraer SA’s E2-family E195 or Bombardier Inc.’s C Series but that Ethiopian Airlines appears to be inclined to add Boeing Co.’s 737 Max 7 or even Boeing 787 Dreamliners to the fleet.

The sources disclosed that Transport and Communications Permanent Secretary Misheck Lungu will soon toe travelling to Ethiopia to try to convince the partners (Ethiopian Airlines) to agree on the choice of aircrafts. They said the other reason for the delay is that the newly appointed Zambia Airlines Board of Directors is yet to meet for its inaugural board meeting.

“What this means is that the Board will have to wait before they could meet until P.S Lungu returns from Ethiopia and submits a report on what type of equipment to go with. As we speak now, the launch is postponed because there hasn’t been any agreement on the type of equipment to purchase. Government doesn’t want to buy larger planes which will only service regional and domestic routes, it will be counterproductive and unsustainable,” the source said.

“Further, we don’t have a CEO yet, the board will have to meet first to determine how the question of the CEO will be dealt with the other shareholder. There are some suggestions from Addis Ababa that they give us a CEO but Government seems against that proposal so these are the reasons for the deferment.

Zambia Airways was established in 1964 and operated flights to London, Frankfurt, Rome and Amsterdam, as well as regional destinations. It ran into financial troubles and was liquidated in 1995.

Ethiopian Airlines will hold a 45 per cent stake in the revived Zambia Airways, while IDC will hold the remaining 55 per cent.

Source: Lusaka Times