By Prof. Dr. Wolfgang H. Thome, ETN Africa Correspondent
Kenya Airways’ long-standing service to the Malawian traveling public, offering a 5th freedom connection between Malawi and Zambia, was clearly worth little for the bureaucrats in Lilongwe, when they abruptly canceled these 5th freedom rights to give upstart Malawian Airlines the monopoly on the route, with instant suggestions this was done at the behest of Ethiopian Airlines. Ethiopian, which went into partnership with the Malawian government to re-launch a national airline after mismanaged Air Malawi had collapsed, at the time prompting desperate calls for assistance to Kenya Airways to offer a daily service to Lusaka, is thought to be the main driver behind that decision in their fight for supremacy in the African skies, in this case clearly a dirty fight as it now allows to charge fares at will to the detriment of passengers.
‘It is once again clear that the Yamoussoukro agreement is really worth little as African countries continue to disregard it with impunity,”’ commented an aviation source from Nairobi, when confirming that indeed effective today, March 1, no more flights between Malawi and Zambia will be operated by Kenya’s national airline.
It was not immediately clear if Kenya Airways would continue to operate flights to Zambia via Malawi now or if they would “thin out” frequencies via Lilongwe in view of this latest development and perhaps increase either flights or use a larger aircraft to serve Lusaka out of Nairobi.
The airline did, however, issue a statement to passengers holding confirmed tickets on the Lilongwe to Lusaka route that they would be refunded in full for that coupon and that any inconvenience was highly regretted, and while diplomatically not saying clearly laying the blame on the door of the Malawian authorities.