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Fastjet suspends Malawi flights over route extension wrangle with government

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United Kingdom registered airline, Fastjet has dislosed plans to stop flying into Malawi barely a few months after launching its services into Lilongwe as government has failed to allow the company to extend the route to Blantyre.

Government is understandably protecting the route for the country’s flag carrier, Malawian Airlines, but this has denied the business prospects for the company which counted on the route to justify its business in the country.

According to information sourced by The Daily Times, the company was promised to be given the green light for the Lilongwe-Blantyre route as a way to maximize business and profitability but government has changed tune, saying the Chileka International Airport runway cannot handle another aircraft of the size that Fastjet intend to use but which is the same as other airlines.

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Fastjet Chief Commercial Officer Richard Bodin confirmed the development on Monday.

“Fastjet had been working closely with the Malawian Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure Development and the Malawi Civil Aviation Authority to secure the necessary clearances to allow us to extend our Lilongwe route to Blantyre, which is the commercial centre of Malawi.

“Unfortunately, these clearances have not been forthcoming, despite other international airlines, including Ethiopian Airlines, Malawian Airlines, South African Airways and Kenya Airways being allowed to fly to Blantyre,” said Bodin.

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He said competition is good for consumers as it brings choice and it brings air fares down.

“Fastjet regrets not being able to continue our efforts to make it easier for more traders, tourists and other visitors to travel between Malawi and Tanzania, strengthening the countries’ relationship, boosting the tourism and business sectors, creating jobs and contributing significantly to both countries’ economic growth.

“However, Fastjet will continue to engage in a positive manner with Malawian Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure Development and the Malawi Civil Aviation Authority, and is confident that we will commence flights again, should the necessary clearances that will allow us to operate a Dar es Salaam – Lilongwe – Blantyre routing be secured,” said Bodin.

Malawi Tourism Council (MTC) Executive Director, Rosebill Sambo, said development is a big blow to the country’s tourism, adding that opening up the skies is the only way tourism would grow in the country.

“Flying into Malawi is expensive. How do we get more people to experience our beauty if an airline that just came in last year has already decided to pull out?” Asked Sambo.

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