Cash-strapped Air Malawi is further making losses for the sake of building customer confidence as evidenced by the difficult decision it made last week Friday to fly to Lusaka to carry one passenger.
The flight was rescheduled several times, forcing the Speaker of the National Assembly Henry Chimunthu Banda to catch a South African Airways (SAA) flight.
Air Malawi confirmed on Tuesday flying one passenger from Lusaka on its ATR 42 aircraft, but did not give the name of the passenger. The company also confirmed that a decision was passed not to fly, but was reversed to â€œbring confidence to the market.â€
Chimunthu Bandaâ€™s personal assistant Victor Sibale confirmed that the Speaker was supposed to travel on Air Malawi, but changed and used other options because Air Malawi kept rescheduling its flight. Sibale could not give the name of the airline Banda used.
But the Speaker himself in a later interview said he flew SAA.
Air Malawi sources said when it was clear that there was only passenger from Lusaka, there was a general agreement to cancel the flight which was later reversed.
â€˜We had to maintain our scheduleâ€™
Air Malawi tariffs and industry affairs manager Tony Chimpukuso said despite having one passenger, the company had to maintain the flight because it was the first after the ATR 42 was just repaired.
â€œYes, there was one passenger. I have forgotten the name of the passenger. For three weeks, ATR was not operating and we have got competition on the route in the name of Kenya Airways. That was the first flight ATR made. So, being in business, whether there are passengers booked or not, we need to maintain our schedule. That is why we operated,â€ said Chimpukuso.
He added: â€œIn fact, people had wanted to cancel, but cancelling sends a wrong message. It shows to the market that you do not care about them. We had about four passengers going to Lusaka and we were told that there was one passenger in Lusaka.
We took a hitch just to bring confidence to the market.â€
On his part, Sibale said the Speaker used other options because Air Malawi kept rescheduling its flight.
He said: â€œHe [Speaker] flew back anyway.â€
Asked which airline the Speaker used, Sibale said: â€œThe other option because Air Malawi had cancelled their flight. All people who have failed to use Air Malawi have used other options.â€
Air Malawi, wholly owned by government, is almost broke. It posts losses year after year.
On November 16 2011, the airline stopped flying on the lucrative Johannesburg route after the expiry of a lease agreement on the Boeing 737 200 with Bravo Capital Limited of the United States of America.
For the past years, the two national flag carrier Boeing planes have been grounded in South Africa after the company failed to pay for a mandatory C-check.