KLM Royal Dutch Airlines has announced plans to stop operating the Amsterdam to Lusaka and Harare route with effect from October this year.
The Zambia Tourism Board (ZTB) says this decision by KLM is devastating and could adversely affect tourism in the country.
And the Ministry of Transport, Works, Supply and Communications Permanent Secretary Charles Sipanje has summoned the airline to explain to Government the reasons of its pull-out.
Mr Sipanje said in an interview yesterday that Government will issue a comprehensive statement after the meeting with the airline’s representatives.
KLM Royal Dutch Airlines began operating the Lusaka route on May 15, 2012 with three weekly flights using Airbus A330-200.
On October 29, 2012, the operation was restructured to serve Harare, Zimbabwe and Lusaka to Amsterdam.
According to a statement issued by KLM official Mary Kamero, the recent optimisations in the airline’s network portfolio in East Africa led to the decision to discontinue direct services from Amsterdam to Lusaka and Harare.
“Connections to Europe and the United States remain in combination with KLM’s strategic and long-term partner Kenya Airways via Nairobi.
From Nairobi, passengers can choose from services to London Heathrow, Amsterdam Airport Schiphol and Paris Charles de Gaulle in Kenya Airways’ newest equipment including the Dreamliner and with KLM’s recently updated World Business Class,” Ms Kamero said.
ZTB managing director Felix Chaila said the decision by KLM is devastating and bad for tourism.
“That was the remaining direct link to the European Union, now people will have to go through South Africa if they do not consider Kenya Airways or Emirates. It is devastating for tourism,” he said.
Mr Chaila said from a meeting held with KLM, the airline is not making profits in Zambia and it regards the route a high-cost operation.
“They are claiming high operation cost that includes, among others, high fuel costs, as well as not reaching optimal passenger mix. They are making money on economy class and not first-class services,” he said.
Mr Chaila urged Government to review the cost structure for aviation fuel and other economies of scale.
Livingstone Tourism Association chairperson Alex Munthali described the pull- out by KLM Royal Dutch Airlines as a big blow to the country.
Mr Munthali said Zambia has no direct connectivity to Europe and many visitors coming into the country through South Africa face challenges of yellow fever certificate, which is affecting tourism.
“Coming into Zambia through South Africa is a hassle, we are hoping that the Government can quickly create a national airline to address some of these challenges,” Mr Munthali said.
Zambia Daily Mail