Since the liquidation of Zambia Airways on January 10, 2009, the growing consensus among Zambians has been that the country’s national airline should be revived; thus, parliament’s recent approval is just that much-needed quietus.
Naturally, an administration would not bargain for a backlash from voters all because of plans to develop an airline. An obvious reason for this is that national airlines partly serve a cosmetic purpose—that is, boosting national pride.
Doubtless, a wave of nostalgia sweeps across older Zambians when they remember such days as when they could board an airline of their own country. To many, as a result, the thought of having those days back is simply refreshing.
Seriously speaking, it is a venerable fact in aviation that airline management is a costly enterprise, which is why it readily attracts billionaires.
Considering that Zambia has once failed to sustain the operation of an airline, parliament’s approval greets any reasonable man as a curious development.
Parliament may have crossed the Rubicon regarding this issue, but it is still necessary that Government addresses itself to the following factors that are central to the success of any airline:
Population and Living Standards
Zambia’s population is relatively negligible and estimated at 13 million as of 2010.
Additionally, 80% of this country’s population survives on less than a dollar a day.
The situation is further compounded by the fact that the bulk of the population is resident in rural areas.
These facts alone spell disaster for a national airline, given that air tickets will not be selling like hot cakes!
In other words, the factors administer a deathblow to the prospect of turning a profit.
The issue of national debt also deserves serious consideration because airlines are established by law makers and they, as such, partly depend on tax payers’ money.
According to Chishimba Kambwili’s confirmations in a recent interview on Ndola’s Sun FM radio, Zambia’s debt stands at about USD$20 billion.
As a consequence, Government income will increasingly be used to squash the current debt burden, instead of improving budget allocations.
One is therefore inclined to ask: how shall airline management meet salaries and allowances of aircraft personnel?
Besides, aircrafts, whether second-hand or not, cost an arm and a leg; how are they going to be purchased smoothly?
These are multi-billion-dollar questions that need to be addressed.
The issue of hostesses is also worth consideration as the attitude and outlook of aircraft attendants is alone able to endear an airline to the aviation world.
Cosmopolitan and veteran Zambian Journalist, Terence Musuku commends Ethiopian Airways for being a big name in the business.
“Ethiopian Airways gives clients a memorable experience! because of the beauty of the hostesses and the way they carry themselves,”He said.
A Zambian-owned airline will therefore, present to airline management the onerous task of recruiting suitable ladies from across the country.
This is no cheap undertaking as it demands the holding of auditions and inculcation of social graces!
Should airline management treat this factor lightly, the new airline will be crawling with substandard personnel—rude staff, devoid of needful charm and might send the airline out of business overnight!
The recruitment exercise cannot solely be done by dint of newspaper adverts for the employers will rob themselves of the opportunity to sample “variety.”
The factors above are just a handful since airline business calls for huge investments and improvements in many other areas of management such as jet A-1 fuel and servicing costs, to mention but a few.
Zambia is a developing economy that may still find such an undertaking a liability, and not an asset.
Instead of going head to head with the airline challenge, Government will be far more prudent upgrading the existing airport infrastructure currently on-going and for now be content with what the country can earn from such policy.
These factors are proffered to the powers that be to help inform and refine further deliberations vis-à-vis the re-set up of a Zambian owned airline.