Ethiopian Airlines’ Affiliate Zambia Airways Set For Launch

The startup carrier will commence flying on Dec. 1 on domestic routes before expanding its network beyond Zambia’s borders in the first quarter of 2022.

Ethiopian Airlines has finalized preparations for the launch of Zambia’s new national carrier, Zambia Airways, which is to start operations Dec. 1.

Ethiopian holds a 45% stake in the joint venture, while Zambia’s Industrial Development Corporation Limited (IDC) retains 55%. Together the shareholders have contributed $30 million in startup capital to establish the airline.

Zambia Airways, which carries the IATA code ZN, will initially operate an all-De Havilland Canada Dash 8-400 fleet.

The flag-carrier’s first domestic flight on Dec. 1 is scheduled from capital city Lusaka (LUN) (pictured) to Ndola (NLA). Zambia Airways will operate the LUN-NLA route six times per week and will also serve Livingstone (LVI) five times per week from the Zambian capital.

Other domestic routes, to Mfuwe (MFU) and Solwezi (SLI), will follow before regional destinations. Johannesburg (JNB) and the Zimbabwean capital Harare (HRE) are set to be added to the Zambia Airways network within the first quarter of 2022.

“The strategic equity partnership in the launching of Zambia’s national carrier is part of our Vision 2025 multiple hub strategy in Africa,” Ethiopian Airlines Group CEO Tewolde GebreMariam said.

Ethiopian has committed to a growth plan that sees it collaborate with other African carriers. “New Zambia Airways will serve as a strong hub in Central and Southern Africa availing domestic, regional and eventually international air connectivity for passengers and cargo to the major destinations in the Middle East, Europe and Asia, which will enhance the socioeconomic integration and tourism industry in Zambia and the region,” the CEO said.

Describing Ethiopian Airlines’ role for aviation in Africa, GebreMariam said his carrier is able to bring in all the necessary support to get a new airline off the ground, including aircraft, pilots, technicians and leadership.

“The driver for such a group of airlines is not the return on investment. It is to support our hub Addis Ababa (ADD),” GebreMariam told Routes recently. “We want to expand inter-African routes further, because the connectivity [within the continent] is still not well.”

Star Alliance member Ethiopian already operates a multi-hub strategy in Africa. Other strategic partnerships include ASKY in Togo on Africa’s west coast, Malawian Airlines in southern Africa and Chad-based Tchadia Airlines in north-central Africa. Ethiopian also has a management contract with Ceiba Intercontinental in Equatorial Guinea.

Ethiopian also has its own-brand airline in Mozambique, but this carrier was forced to stop operations in May 2021 as a result of the pandemic. “Our airline in Mozambique will come back. But the country itself has big challenges, even beyond COVID-19,” GebreMariam said.

The next project is to start a new carrier in Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), beginning with a fleet of 10 aircraft. The DRC government will own 51% of the airline and Ethiopian Airlines 49%. The Congolese carrier’s fleet will comprise Dash 8-400s, Boeing 737s and two 787s.

Another market where the CEO sees opportunities is Nigeria. “And it is still in my mind that we have to do something in Northern Africa,” GebreMariam added.

Ethiopian is Africa’s largest airline, operating to more than 130 international passenger and cargo destinations across five continents. It serves 62 destinations in Africa.

The previous iteration of Zambia Airways was established in 1964 and ceased operations in 1995.

Photo credit: Salim Dawood/AFP/Getty Images