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Sunday, 22 July 2007

Sarah sees sense!

Times of Zambia report that Government has finally seen sense and abandoned its previously stated plans for a national airline. When Sarah Sayifwanda was appointed not long ago as Minister of Communications and Transport, she was given a remit from President Mwanawasa of ensuring " the matter of the establishment of the national airline was speedily concluded and brought to cabinet for a decision". Mr Banda latest pronouncement indicates those plans have been rightly abandoned.

GOVERNMENT has no intentions of setting up a national airline but will instead create an enabling environment for the private sector to set up airlines.Vice-President Rupiah Banda yesterday told Parliament during the Vice-President’s question time that the Government learnt lessons from the defunct Zambia Airways and would, therefore, not want to repeat the same mistakes. Mr Banda was responding to a question from Chipangali member of Parliament (MP) Vincent Mwale (MMD), who wanted to know whether there were any plans to set up a national airline.“Government believes in public-private partnership and has no intention of starting a national airline,” Mr Banda said.
This is good news indeed. As I have previously argued there's absolutely no case for a national airline. Our focus as Mr Banda hints should be creating an enabling environment through greater liberalisation of air travel and reducing the the cost of jet fuel.

7 comments:

  1. This is good news indeed, provided some effort is now made to court several airlines willing to establish routes via Lusaka. Delta Airlines has been making efforts to extend coverage into African markets, with direct routes out of Atlanta to Nigeria, Senegal, and recently announced Ghana, and further service to airports like Jo'burg. According to your earlier comments in addition to Nigeria, other countries have sought access to Zambian commercial airspace and facilities like Kenya, Ethiopia and Libya. Is there much more that needs to be done to spur growth in the domestic market other than relaxing taxes and fees on jet fuel and easing negotiation stances on agreements like the Fifth Freedom rights you mentioned?

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  2. Yes! Unfortunately we can always do more!...especially on the infrastructure side.

    Our airport infrastructure can definitely do with a lift. Especially provincial airports to enable the development of tourism. We have four international airports managed by National Airports Corporation Limited (NACL) - although with Solwezi Airport due to be built by the mines that make it five (see the post called Solwezi Model). NACL is aiming to fully commercialise its operations (the Zamtel problem) so that it could invest in more infrastructure. Provincial airports come under the Department for Civil Aviation. Encouraging private sector involvement there is critical.

    The other critical infrastructure is Airport Traffic Control (ATC) infrastructure which is maintained and operated by NACL. Zambia has a civilian radar system and is limited to procedural air traffic control. Overflight incomes from ATC services are quite low, particular given the fact that major overflight routes pass through Zambia. Furthermore it is difficult for NACL to negotiate higher fees because we lack adequate surveillance infrastructure. With increased traffic, we will need to invest in new surveillance technology. There's a role for Government to take the lead here - and look at the Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) for example. I am told that this is a cheap technology, easy to maintain and suited for countries in the developing world such as ours. Tanzania has it.

    We also need to invest in soft infrastructure - human capital. The Zambian Air Services Training Institute for example must be considered as critical to aviation development. I think the institute should be privatised to allow it to expand and grow. It has good staff and good students. We can become an exporter of pilots in the region if we made it private.

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  3. I do belive that airlines such as zambian skyways need to get into leasing from companies such as IFLC. They need boeing planes seeing as how we do not have airbus equipment. The planes need to be four 767-300ER for intercontinetal & 3 737-700 for regional routes Zambian Syways could become the ntional airline if the goverment also funds it.

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  4. Anonymous,

    IFCL - which organisation is this?
    Which intercontinental routes do you think Zambian Skyways should explore? Dubai?

    It would be difficult to under cut BA on the London route since that would require some code sharing with someone else etc. Most people on the London route actually transit through to other places. The advantage of using BA is that it makes transiting seamless because BA belongs to "One World".

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  5. IFLC-international finance leasing corporation. They are based in America and this is where most airlines get there planes from & they have the most number of planes in the world. The routes that Zambia Skyways could use with those 767-300ER is to have flights to Dubai, France, Germany, Thailand or even Hong Kong. On the London route we can look to bringing in Virgin Atlantic or going with Nation Wide which would give BA their run for their money. If they wanted to go into America they could code share something with Delta Airlines seeing as how they are venturing into Africa.

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  6. Cho on the Airport Infrastructure
    they just need to start a new terminal on the other side of Lusaka Airport which would be Ultra Modern. They can leave the old one for domestic routes or just shut it down. That I believe would be the best way to go.

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  7. Anonymous,

    Yes, I think the key is to choose a route that will allow people to transit.

    Clearly many passengers from Europe (especially from Gernmany) are having to pass through London. A Lusaka - Germany route may not be bad idea, especially given the lack of slot constraints at Germany markets.

    You also right on the feasibility of another terminal. Its clearly about time this was done.

    What I would say though is that we must consider exploring alternatives to the currently ownership of our airport infrastructure. Perhaps its about time we abandoned state ownership?

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