Last week I wrote about how Ethiopian Airlines, Africa’s largest airline (by revenue and fleet size), was the front runner to relaunch a national airline in Nigeria. I noted that:
Ethiopian is no stranger to investing in and developing African airlines. I was unaware of this, but they already own stakes in ASKY Airlines in Togo, Malawian Airlines, Chadian Airlines, Zambia Airways, and Guinea Airlines.
Well here’s some more news on their plans in Zambia.
The African nation of Zambia did have a national airline operating from its hub in Lusaka until 1994, though it liquidated. That left the country with only a privately owned airline, which suspended operations in 2009.
Now comes the news that Ethiopian Airlines is continuing their expansion plans around the African continent. They have signed an agreement with Zambia’s main development agency to relaunch a national airline in Zambia.
Within 10 years, the new Zambia Airways will operate with a fleet of 12 planes. Unlike the Nigeria Air tender exercise, Ethiopian Airlines will only own a 45% stake in the airline, with the Zambian government owning the remaining 55%, meaning Ethiopian will not have a controlling stake.
Ethiopian Airlines has said of their plans:
As an indigenous and truly Pan-African airline, we believe that African carriers will only get their fair share of the aviation industry and the African market through partnerships with other African carriers.
Zambia Airways plans to eventually launch routes to Europe, Asia and the Middle East, as well as intra-Africa routes, although of course lofty ambitions of long-haul routes may or may not come to fruition. Looking into their history, they did previously fly from their hub in Lusaka to places like Frankfurt, London Heathrow, Mumbai, Rome and New York (in some cases with stops).
While Reuters is reporting the first flights will take place in January of 2019, mere months away, this seems extremely optimistic.
Lusaka is already served by a number of African airlines (including Ethiopian), and the only non-African airline currently serving the airport is Emirates (via Harare, Zimbabwe).
My family has been sponsoring twin girls in a village in Zambia for over a decade now, so it’s a country that I have had a connection with and one I would love to visit. Ethiopian Airlines is a smart operator, and is slowly but surely taking advantage of the growth opportunities in the continent.
Zambia Airways has the potential to become a powerhouse in southern Africa, especially given South African Airways’ lack of profitability and strategy.
I could definitely see Ethiopian Airlines developing something similar to Etihad Airways Partners in Africa, where they group together the different airlines they are involved in operating to assist passengers with connections, frequent flyer programs, etc. Although hopefully they are far more successful than the disastrous Etihad Airways Partners experiment.
I’ve written before about how the ‘Big Three’ airline groups are forming in Europe, and comparing them with the ‘Big Three’ in both the USA and the Middle East.
Do you think Ethiopian will form the first ‘big’ airline group in Africa?