Kenya Airways booted out of Lilongwe - Lusaka route
The government of Malawi through the Department of Civil Aviation has effective yesterday stopped Kenya Airways from picking Lusaka-bound passengers from Lilongwe after it was discovered that the airline was operating the flight without a required agreement with Air Malawi.
This means that while Kenya Airways can continue making stop-overs in Lusaka on its Lilongwe-Nairobi flight, it cannot pick passengers going to Lusaka from Lilongwe neither can it carry Lilongwe-destined passengers from Lusaka on the flight.
Both Air Malawi and Kenya Airways have confirmed the development.
Air Malawi has since resumed flights to Lusaka, with the first flight taking off from Lilongwe yesterday.
Kenya Airways Country Director for Malawi Ruth Mawelu said in a telephone interview on Sunday the airline has suspended the Lilongwe-Lusaka flights following a letter they received from the Department of Civil Aviation, ordering them to stop the flights.
Deputy Director for Civil Aviation James Chakwera also confirmed the development but referred the matter to Principal Secretary for the Ministry of Transport Collins Kumangirana who could not immediately comment on the matter.
However, Air Malawi's Traffic and Industry's Affairs Manager Tony Chimpukuso said Kenya Airways started operating on the route in 2008 following a Commercial Agreement it had with Air Malawi as the designated carrier for the route.
He said, however, that Kenya Airways terminated the agreement with Air Malawi in February 2009 but continued operating on the route, forcing Air Malawi to launch a complaint with the Department of Civil Aviation, which, however, dragged its feet in resolving the matter until recently when it stopped Kenya Airways from operating on route.
"The route of Lilongwe – Lusaka – Lilongwe was among the most lucrative routes for Air Malawi until Kenya Airways acquired Fifth Freedom Traffic Rights whereby they were allowed to pick passengers either on their way to or from Nairobi," said Chimpukuso.
He said, however, the agreement between the governments of Malawi and Kenya had a condition attached to the Fifth Freedom that required Kenya Airways to have commercial agreement with Air Malawi to operate the Lilongwe-Lusaka route.
"We earlier had an agreement but Kenya Airways terminated it on technicalities but continued to exercise Fifth Freedom Traffic Rights on Lilongwe-Lusaka-Lilongwe on their own, contrary to the MOU [Memorandum of Understanding]," said Chimpukuso.
He said apart from operating the route on its own, Kenya Airways introduced very low fares on the route, which gave them an advantage of using newer equipment and that Air Malawi traffic drastically dwindled to the point of cancelling flights because it made no business sense to operate the ATR42 with low numbers.
"For your information, Kenya Airways like any other foreign airline are allowed to take out of Malawi all the money they make without even paying taxes. Since 2009, Air Malawi lost a lot of money operating on marginal passenger numbers on the route," said Chimpukuso.
He said Air Malawi has since resumed flights on the Lusaka route where it will now operate three flights per week using both the ATR 42 and the Boeing 737 where necessary.
Chimpukuso said Air Malawi will also partner with Air Botswana to operate joint flights on the route to offer passengers more flexibility.