Ethiopian is Starting a New Airline... In Zambia
Africa's largest airline continues to build its dominance in the region. Ethiopian Airlines has signed on to back a new airline in Zambia.
The venture will relaunch Zambia's flag carrier, Zambia Airways, which has been dormant for more than 23 years.
Ethiopian injected $30 million into the project, which expects to operate 12 aircraft by 2028. Reuters reports that the inaugural flight will occur on January 1, 2019 — an ambitious date for an airline that doesn't have any of its own aircraft.
“The initial investment as we start up the national carrier will be $30 million," Ethiopian and Zambia’s state-owned Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) said in a joint statement. "Obviously, as we operate the airline, we will facilitate the financing necessary to support its growth."
Ethiopian is Africa's largest airline by both revenue and fleet size, surpassing other regional carriers like South African and Kenya Airways. It's been investing in other airlines in the region, such as Malawi Airlines, which it operates, as well as plans to run Nigeria's new national carrier. Ethiopian will own 45% of Zambia Airways with the other 55% being owned by the Zambian government.
After the state-owned Zambia Airways went into liquidation in 1994, the privately owned and operated Zambian Airways became the country's most prominent airline but shut down in 2009.
The new airline will launch intra-Zambia and intra-Africa routes next year while it eyes destinations in Asia, Europe and the Middle East.
In January, Ethiopian had announced that it signed an agreement with Zambia Airways, so this announcement is solidifying the plan to relaunch the airline. Apparently the launch was pushed back to January, and critics were quick to assess the move.
Ethiopian currently operates 103 aircraft. It's possible it will loan some of its aircraft to Zambia Airways or use the $30 million to lease aircraft for the upstart.
Some reports indicate that the Brian Mushimba, the Zambian minister of Transport and Communications, is in talks with Airbus to acquire wide-body jets. The same report said the airline would use turboprop aircraft for domestic Zambian and regional African flights and Boeing 737s to destinations like Dubai.
Before it shutdown, Zambia Airways flew Boeing 747s and other wide-body aircraft and was sizable player in the African aviation market. It even flew a DC-10 between its hub at Lusaka (LUN) and New York (JFK), a route that it may actually restart.
The Kenneth Kaunda International Airport (LUN) is currently undergoing a major $360 million major expansion, funded by China.