Ethiopian Airlines has finally agreed to enter into a strategic partnership with the Malawi government in the operation of the country’s new airline which will now be known as Malawian Airlines Limited.

This spells an end of Air Malawi as both an entity and a brand which has been associated with Malawi’s air transportation since 1967. Initially, it was planned that the new airline would be called Air Malawi 2012 Limited.

Addressing members of the media in Blantyre on Wednesday, Public Private Partnership Commission (PPPC) Chief Executive Officer, Jimmy Lipunga, said the name has been changed to bring a completely new brand under the partnership.

“The Air Malawi brand was considered seriously damaged due to erratic services and a negative reputation it accumulated through frequent flight cancellations and bankruptcy records,” said Lipunga.

He said there was another concern that using the name Air Malawi could expose the new airline to “predatory creditors” who would attempt to embarrass the new airline.

Lipunga said despite Malawi’s wish to maintain the name Air Malawi, the country’s negotiating team became sympathetic with the line of reasoning advanced by Ethiopian Airlines, hence their yielding to have the name changed.

He said, however, that despite changing the name, Malawi’s pride had not been lost.

“The proposed name is equally effective in stimulating Malawi’s international image,” he said.

He said the Malawi government would hold a majority ownership of 51 percent in Malawian Airlines Limited while Ethiopian Airlines would take the remaining 49 percent. He said Ethiopian Airline would come back as soon as possible with an indication of when it plans to commence operations.

“Operations were supposed to commence on July 1, 2013 but the request made on the change of name was complex as the matter needed [Malawi] government approval. This took more time,” said Lipunga.

He also said Ethiopian Airlines has a commitment to employ as many Malawians as possible at all levels of the new airline in the spirit of true partnership. Lipunga said routes initially targeted include Johannesburg, Harare, Lusaka, Dar-es-Salaam and Luanda while domestically, Malawian Airlines would fly between Lilongwe, Blantyre, Mzuzu and Karonga.

According to the PPPC boss, in the medium term, the airline would explore intercontinental flights to new destinations such as Sao Paulo in Brazil to take advantage of increasing Brazilian interest within the Southern Africa.

Ethiopian Airlines was designated as a preferred strategic partner bidder on February 13, 2013 by the PPPC following a competitive bidding process after the liquidation of Air Malawi. – By Caroline Kandiero

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