Malawian Airlines on Friday morning successfully celebrated its inaugural domestic flight from Lilongwe to Blantyre and back using its newly acquired Bombardier Q400 aircraft.
Malawian Airlines was established under a strategic partnership agreement, which has seen Ethiopian Airlines providing the two aircrafts as part of its 49 percent shareholding in the company while the Malawi Government is providing working capital for its initial operations. Government has a 51 percent stake.
But despite flying a few passengers on its maiden flight, the airline’s Public Relations Officer (PRO), Maganizo Fly Mazeze, remained optimistic and hinted that the development marked the dawn of an “exciting flying chapter for Malawians.”
“We are excited that finally we have commenced our services with today’s domestic flight,” said Mazeze at Chileka Airport in Blantyre just after the Bombardier Q400 Next Gen landed.
Inside the Bombardier Q400 aircraft- Pic Lucky Mkandawire
The aircraft, with a 67-passenger capacity (60 for economy class and seven for business), touched down at Chileka Airport from Lilongwe at 09:20hours with eight passengers. It flew back at 10:25hours with 10 passengers.
“Basically we wanted people to know that Malawian Airlines has now commenced flying with the domestic route. We will have daily flights, every morning, from Lilongwe to Blantyre and back.
“As business picks up we will have double flights between Lilongwe and Blantyre [Lilongwe-Blantyre and back in the morning and in the afternoon]. Flying is very convenient and our intention is to make it affordable to businesspersons and the public at large to transact their businesses between Blantyre and Lilongwe without travelling stresses,” he said.
The spokesperson also disclosed that in few months’ time and depending on the market response, besides Lilongwe and Blantyre, Malawian Airlines would start flying to seven other destinations in Africa which include Johannesburg, Maputo, Harare, Lusaka, Dar es Salaam, Beira and Tete in Mozambique.
“We will eventually introduce the Nairobi [Kenya] and Kampala (Uganda) routes,” he added.
The Bombardier Q400 Next Gen, which is less than two years old, is one of the modern aircrafts to fly in Africa and this is the first time this type of plane is coming to Malawi. It arrived in the country from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on Wednesday night.
According to Mazeze, the flight was delayed due to some technicalities as it was flying (from Ethiopia to Malawi) without passengers and there were certain issues as per the aviation industry’s regulations that needed to be addressed.
Meanwhile, Mazeze has disclosed that the arrival of the second aircraft- a Boeing 737 800- will delay its arrival in Malawi until the airline clears some issues to do with fees.
“We expect it [Boeing 737 800 plane] to be in the country anytime, it may be any day next week or the other week,” he stated.
The airline was awarded its Air Operator Certificate from the country’s Department of Civil Aviation to start both domestic and international flights following the securing of traffic rights to destinations it proposed to be flying to.
The airline became the first local airline to be certified using the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO’s) Five Phase certification process which is more thorough and globally recognised for providing the most assurance on safety.
Malawian Airlines is headed by an Ethiopian, Kassim Geresu, who was seconded from Ethiopian Airways in Addis Ababa Airlines as per the management agreement between Ethiopian and Malawian Airlines.
Before his appointment as Malawian Airlines chief executive officer, Geresu served as chief financial officer of Ethiopian Airlines since October 2010.
He has over 25 years experience in the airline industry and joined Ethiopian Airways in 1988. He holds an MBA from the Open University of the United Kingdom and a Bachelors Degree in Accounting.