By WANGUI MAINA
March 5 2014
Malawian government has cancelled KQ’s rights to fly the Lilongwe to Lusaka (Zambia) route, which allowed Kenya Airways to pick and drop passengers between the two cities.The move does not, however, affect KQ flights to Lilongwe and Blantyre, which were launched in June last year, from its Nairobi hub.
Ethiopian Airlines’ investment in Malawian Air has locked Kenya Airways (KQ) out of the lucrative Malawi-Zambia route, dealing a double blow for the national carrier as its rival also prepares to increase frequencies to Nairobi.
The Malawian government has cancelled KQ’s rights to fly the Lilongwe to Lusaka (Zambia) route, which allowed Kenya Airways to pick and drop passengers between the two cities.
The cancellation of licence effective March 1 came shortly after the re-launch of Malawi Airlines, which is now 49 per cent owned by Ethiopian Airlines. The move does not, however, affect KQ flights to Lilongwe and Blantyre, which were launched in June last year, from its Nairobi hub.
Formerly known as Air Malawi, the national carrier was grounded until it received a bailout last year from Ethiopian Airlines, which is KQ’s top rival in the region and second largest in the continent.
The launch of the Malawi government controlled airline is set to increase competition for KQ in southern Africa. It comes as Ethiopian Airlines prepares to double its daily flights to Nairobi from two to four from June, a move that will see it battle out with KQ for passengers on the popular business corridor.
Kenya Airways has been a major beneficiary of poor aviation connections in some parts of southern Africa through strategic partnerships.
A deal with Air Malawi in 2008 saw the airline start operations on the lucrative Lilongwe-Lusaka route, through a code sharing agreement.
The lack of capacity by Air Malawian saw KQ take over the route, but the Malawian government terminated the flight licence in October 2012.
Collapse of airline last year saw Kenya Airways become a key beneficiary as the Malawian government restored rights in April. KQ was the sole operator of the route as Air Malawi looked for a bailout.
Kenya Airways has been eyeing a larger share of the southern Africa market as it deepens its growth strategy of connecting more African cities to Asia and Europe through its Nairobi hub.
Investment in new aircraft, including the Dreamliner expected on April 4 and the Boeing 777-300 ER, is expected to help the airline drive this expansion strategy.