Lakestar Express Limited, a Malawian-owned airline, has expressed interest to operate both domestic and international flights, a move that is expected to bring competition in the aviation sector.
In an interveiw, Ministry of Transport and Public Works spokesperson James Chakwera said, the airline, which has since applied for licence for passenger and cargo, is expected to obtain an Air Operator Licence (AOL) before it finally rolls out.
He said as a requirement, every airline which wants to operate in Malawi must first apply for an airline licence, which is granted after 21 days and thereafter, it must start processing for the AOL, which usually takes some time.
He said: “It is true that Lakestar Express Limited wants to start operating both in the domestic and international routes. This is the only company that we have at the moment which has expressed interest to do business in the country’s aviation sector.
“However, the process itself lasts months before everything is brought to the table. As government, we are optimistic that we will seal a deal at the end of the day,” he said.
Currently, Malawi has only one airline, Malawian Airlines Limited, operating on the domestic market as well as regional.
“If duly certified, this should be a welcome development to the transport sector as more operators will encourage competition, which would in turn bring down fares, thereby increasing passenger services,” said Chakwera.
Unlike other countries in the region, Malawi does not have a low-cost airline as Fastjet, which used to operate between Dar es Salaam in Tanzania and Lilongwe, winged out of the Malawi market three years ago when it was set to introduce flights between Lilongwe and Blantyre.
Government was unwilling to grant the airline cabotage rights—the right to operate within a particular territory—between the two cities.
According to the Malawi Growth and Development Strategy (MGDS) II review report, Malawi’s civil aviation sector has experienced virtually no growth since 1990 with a declining trend for passenger traffic.
An aviation expert Tony Chimpukuso, who once worked for the liquidated Air Malawi Limited, said there is need for policy reforms if the aviation sector is to grow.
“Our condition in the sector scares investors away. Our operating environment is not good for new entrants unless if it is a partnership,” he said.
Lakestar Express Limited is expected to be granted a one-year contract. It is expected to operate using Beech Aircraft B1900DD, Embraer 145/190, Cessana Caravan 208 B. n