Local transport authorities have blamed Fifa president Gianni Infantino’s botched visit on his airline operator, arguing it failed to conduct prompt aviation assessment in the country before confirming the trip.
Last Wednesday, Infantino was expected to inspect the world football governing body’s projects and inaugurate the upgraded Mpira Stadium in Chiwembe Township, Blantyre.
But the trip was cancelled at the eleventh hour reportedly because the plane used by the Fifa president and his delegation could not land at the partially closed Chileka International Airport in Blantyre due to safety reasons.
In an interview, Ministry of Transport and Public Works spokesperson James Chakwera said it was the responsibility of the plane operator to research on the airport’s capacity before confirming the trip.
“The operator asked for clearance to use our airport and we issued them one.
“What we think they didn’t do is timely assessment of the airport. If they had done that, they should have put in place contingency plans,” he said.
Chakwera further said another airline operator asked for clearance to fly the Fifa delegation from Lilongwe to Blantyre and back.
“The second option was that they land in Lilongwe and take a lighter plane to Blantyre. However, they felt that it would not match their plans and the second clearance request was withdrawn,” he said.
Last week, Fifa spokesperson Alois Hug apologised for the failed trip while insisting it was down to the airport capacity challenges.
“The reasons are linked with unforeseen last-minute issues related with the airport in Chileka and the plane that the delegation was travelling on,” he said.
“The delegation regrets having to change their plan to visit Malawi, but the Fifa president looks forward to be able to visit the country in the next first opportunity.”