The Public Private Partnership Commission (PPPC) and an industry expert have differed on whether Malawian Airlines, the successor of the liquidated Air Malawi Limited, is fulfilling its objectives two years on.
While Jimmy Lipunga, chief executive officer of PPPC, a government agency that brokered the deal, argue the airline has promoted affordable access to aviation services, an industry expert Tony Chimpukuso, an erstwhile employee of Air Malawi Limited, said the economy has not benefited from the deal.
Malawian Airlines is a joint venture between Ethiopian Airlines (ET), a strategic equity partner with 49 percent stake and Malawi Government which owns 51 percent.
Commenting on the performance of the Malawian Airlines since its entry on the market on January 31 2015, Lipunga said it has increased competition and helped to push down airfares.
He said in an e-mail response: “Overall, the airline is fulfilling the objective of the Government of Malawi in promoting affordable access to aviation services.
“Air fares are much more affordable now than what was the case before. The airline has outperformed its traditional rivals in terms of time keeping and baggage safety.”
He said the airline has made Malawi proud, observing that last year it was number two on the continent in terms of time keeping.
Lipunga said that the airline has brought in modern equipment, competent personnel and is supported by a global aviation technical partner, a situation which has brought a new face to the country’s aviation industry.
But Chimpukuso, former Air Malawi Limited tariff and industry manager, said that in as much as Malawian Airlines has helped bring competition and cheap prices in the aviation sector, the deal has been too good to be true.
He explained: “Malawi has lost a lot of foreign exchange to Ethiopia mainly because management fees are being transferred to Ethiopia and also because the airliner, in as much as it is carrying a Malawian flag, is not a Malawian company. Its tickets are sold as Ethiopian documents with their numbers starting with 071.”
Chimpukuso said Malawi could have benefitted greatly from the agreement if the foreign exchange that is realised through Malawian Airlines was to be used for domestic purposes.
Malawian Airlines has also come under scrutiny for employing mostly Ethiopians such as the crew, cabin crew and serving Ethiopian food.
However, Malawian Airlines spokesperson Ovixlexla Bunya said, so far, only four management and one quality assurance supervisory staffs are Ethiopian, adding that three pilots are from Europe while two marketing staff members are from South Africa and Zambia.
She said the rest of the staff, including seven out of 10 pilots and the 31-member cabin crew are Malawians.
Bunya expressed the company’s commitment to promoting Malawian products, citing the in-flight catering, which she said is currently being done by a Malawian company, which she did not mention.
Currently, Malawi Airlines flies to Johannesburg, South Africa, Lusaka, Zambia, Harare in Zimbabwe and Dar-es-Salam in Tanzania.n