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SAA Cancels Malawi Route over Economic Woes

Lamola Lamola - file photo

The South African Airways (SAA) says it will suspend flights between Malawi and South Africa due to what its chief executive Prof. John Lamola attributes to the recent economic challenges in Malawi.

Lamola says in a statement that the ‘difficult decision’ to cancel the route to Malawi, follows the substantial devaluation of the Malawi Kwacha, acute foreign currency shortages, and the escalation of blocked funds.

The central bank announced a 44 percent devaluation of the Malawi Kwacha which is now trading at K1700 against the US dollar, a situation which has pushed inflation and reduced consumers’ disposable income.

The decision by SAA comes after the airliner operated for only eight months, after resumption of flights in Malawi on March 16, 2023 coming from a three year hiatus induced by a Covid19 economic downturn.

Speaking at the resumption of flights at Chileka Airport in Blantyre, Malawians traders, expressed hope that they will have options of travel and reduced travel time to travel between the commercial capital and Johannesburg.

Lamola and Malawi High Commissioner to Malawi also expressed hope the flights would improve tourists travel to the “Warm Heart of Africa”.

However, the statement from SAA reads in part: “The suspension which is a carefully considered risk management intervention is effective, Thursday, 30 November, 2023.”

“SAA values its relationship with the Malawian market and thanks its customers for their understanding and continued support during these challenging times. We will continue to closely monitor the situation. We remain open to resuming the route to Malawi as soon as the situation warrants the substance of financially efficient operations from this route,” added Lamola.

In reaction, Ministry of Transport spokesperson Watson Maingo says the cancellation of flights by SAA will have minimal impact on the airline industry in the country.

He said SAA has communicated to the Department of Civil Aviation that the suspension is temporary and flights by the airline will resume when the economic situation improves.

“Currently the Malawian Airline is still operating the route. This cancellation may only affect the travelers’ preferences, but surely there are other alternative modes of transport for the route,” he said.

Malawi according to statistics shows it trades more with South Africa than neighbouring countries.

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