A group of Zambian aviation professionals in the Diaspora in partnership with their locally based counterparts and some foreign investors will be launching Zambia’s first budget airline in the next few months in readiness for the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) conference.
Mukuba Airlines Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Mwansa Chalwe explained that the airline’s business model will revolutionalize air travel in the country and contribute to promote tourism and investment throughout Zambia by making air travel affordable and complement other product offerings that are on the market.
Mr Chalwe said the vision of the founders of Mukuba airlines is to demystify and democratize air travel and emulate emerging economies like Brazil, India, Indonesia and others that have extended air travel to those who have never flown before including domestic workers as was the case in Brazil.
He was speaking at a media briefing in Livingstone yesterday.
Mukuba Airlines, which is expected to be a low cost carrier, is meant mainly for domestic travel and will be the first of its kind in Zambia.
Mr Chalwe said the company has an investment plan of between US $ 5 and 15 million in the project.
He said with regard to the airline industry, the number of regional and international airlines coming into Zambia has increased in the last ten years by over 60 per cent, bringing in record numbers of regional and international passengers but the domestic aviation sector has not grown at the same rate and has lagged behind which has created a gap in terms of feeder services and limited the visitors’ travel options to most parts of Zambia.
He stated that the launch of the low cost carrier has reached an advanced stage and the airline will initially concentrate on domestic travel using the French made Turbo Prop ATR 42-500 and ATR 72-500 aircraft to be maintained by air Botswana.
“Research findings were that the Zambian macroeconomic indicators had been consistently good over a time frame of ten years. The research concluded that it is the good macroeconomic and stable political environment of the country that is attracting many foreign investors to Zambia in order to seize investment opportunities in various sectors including tourism,” he said.
Mr Chalwe noted that it is unfortunate that Zambians on the other hand have been left as spectators in their own country as they have not sized the opportunities, especially in big business mainly due to lack of capital and expertise in big business.
He commended government for its policy of promoting private sector development by creating an enabling environment as it is the private sector that creates jobs.
The company is expected to employ 35 people in its first year and an additional 54 people in the second year.
The airline is expected to be operational in July this year and its offices will be based in Livingstone.
And Livingstone Tourism Association Board Chairman, Active Monze, said once the airline is operational it will help improve domestic tourism as people will have a chance to visit tourism places in other parts of the country at a low price.
Mr Monze said for Livingstone to succeed in the tourism industry it needs to have good investment in it.
He said the organization is looking forward to working with the company as it will help ease movement of the local people as well as tourists who want to go to other places within Zambia.
And newly elected Livingstone Member of Parliament, Lawrence Evans, thanked the company for brining in a domestic airline for the main benefit of the local people.
Mr Evans said the project has been in the pipe line for a long time and that it is the type of investment that is much needed in Livingstone.
He noted that current airlines tend to monopolize the fares which disadvantage the local people who cannot afford the price.