Malawians Airlines Limited yesterday rolled out its long-awaited service starting with a domestic flight between Lilongwe (LL) and Blantyre (BT) on a 78-seater Bombardier Q400 with fares slashed by 15 percent.
The LL-BT trip attracted eight passengers while the return had 10 passengers, according to the company’s public relations officer Maganizo Mazeze.
He hoped that the passenger numbers will pick up as more people appreciate the service the company, which is in partnership with Ethiopian Airlines (ET), will be offering.
“We believe that Malawians will be happy and enjoy the flights. What we want people to know is that Malawian Airlines is here to stay,” said Mazeze at Chileka International Airport.
He said the company, which will be offering daily flights between the two cities, has started with fares ranging from $140 [K63 000 at the current exchange rates] to $150 [K67 500], which he said are competitive to attract more Malawians to patronise the flights.
This means with the 15 percent reduction in the fares, passengers are paying between K53 000 and 57 000.
The roll-out of the service ends 18 months without a national flag carrier.
Mazeze said the airline will initially start flying to nine destinations that include Johannesburg, Lusaka, Maputo, Beira and Tete, Dar es Salaam, Harare, Kenya and Uganda.
“Our intention is to make flying affordable. Our fares will be as competitive as possible, but we will not compromise on quality,” he said.
One of the passengers, Christopher Mwase, hailed the coming onto the scene of Malawian Airlines flights, saying passengers will have alternatives in terms of service and fares.
“One airline on the market has been charging K89 000 between Blantyre and Lilongwe, but today I paid half the price. This will obviously bring competition on the market,” he said.
Another passenger, Ellard Almando, said it has always been time-consuming and risky to travel by road to Lilongwe.
“We want to go to Lilongwe and do business and be back the same day,” he said.
The Malawi Government which liquidated the successor company, Air Malawi Limited, has 51 percent stake and is investing $10.2 million in the new airline with the rest held by ET which has, so far, invested $20 million.
The company was issued with an Airline Operating Certificate (AOC) on January 3 2014.
ET will avail two aircrafts to the company—Boeing 737-800, which is for prime regional destinations and the Bombardier, which is mostly for low traffic regional destinations. The Boeing is expected in Malawi in the coming weeks as it is waiting for a permit and registration.
So far, the company has recruited 46 employees with six pilots and 15 cabin crew and the rest are in maintenance, sales and marketing, and finance and administration departments.