Mahogany Air (HOG, Lusaka) has apologised to the Zambian government after it failed to provide a paid-for USD224,000 charter service to Côte d'Ivoire for a Zambian government delegation to attend the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) and bring home the national team after the event.

Speaking at a news conference in the Zambian capital Lusaka on June 8, Mahogany Air Managing Director Jim Belemu explained the B737-500 chartered through a third party had been delayed and finally cancelled due to technical problems. He said the aircraft had developed a fault that resulted in three test flights but could not be fixed in time. Consequently, Mahogany Air took the decision to cancel the flight from Johannesburg O.R. Tambo. “Safety has to be Number One,” he explained. A backup aircraft was mustered and the team had arrived safely home from Yamoussoukro in the end, he said. Still, Belemu acknowledged “total miscommunication” on the part of the airline.

Speaking at the same briefing, Zambian Sports Minister Elvis Nkandu said the government was demanding a refund and compensation for expenses incurred from Mahogany Air. He said due procurement processes had been followed but Mahogany Air had failed to deliver the charter on time. “We were very disappointed that the service was not provided as expected. The only consolation was that another plane was arranged by Mahogany Air,” he said.

Mahogany Air was not immediately available for comment.