The new Zambia Airways (ZN, Lusaka) is to launch commercial operations on September 30, 2021, according to an announcement by the airline’s board.

Speaking at a news conference in the Zambian capital Lusaka on August 10, Board chairperson Bonaventure Mutale said the new national carrier would commence operations on domestic routes to Livingstone, Ndola, and Solwezi, plus regional routes to Johannesburg O.R. Tambo (South Africa), and Harare Int'l (Zimbabwe), using a fleet of three leased aircraft including two DHC-8-Q400s and one B737-800, reported The Lusaka Times. As previously reported, the aircraft are expected to be sourced from Ethiopian Airlines, which operates a fleet of twenty-seven Q400s and sixteen B737-800s, according to the ch-aviation fleets advanced module.

The new Zambia Airways is a joint venture established in August 2018 between the Industrial Development Corporation Limited (IDC), which holds 55% shareholding, and Ethiopian Airlines (ET, Addis Ababa), with 45% ownership. Mutale said the shareholders had contributed USD30 million in capital towards the establishment of the airline.

The airline was initially to be launched on October 24, 2018, but its debut was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, re-certification procedures which were still ongoing by April 2021, and Zambia having had to ratify the Cape Town Convention to secure Zambia Airways’ leased fleet.

So far, 25 Zambian cabin crew members had been trained at the Ethiopian Aviation Academy and five Zambian pilots had been recruited who would receive type-training at Ethiopian Airlines.

Mutale said the new flag carrier expected an uptick in domestic and regional travel with increasing vaccinations against COVID-19 in the region. The airline would also leverage on the modern infrastructure at the new Ndola airport and the newly-constructed Terminal Two at Lusaka, he said.

The new Terminal Two at Kenneth Kaunda International Airport in Lusaka was formally commissioned on August 9, 2021, by Zambian President Edgar Lungu, who said his administration had invested more than USD1 billion in the aviation sector, ZNBC reported.

The new facility was opened for international flights on August 5, 2021, according to a notice by the Zambia Airports Corporation Limited (ZACL). Domestic passengers will continue to be processed through the old Terminal One until further notice.

Welcoming the launch of the new flag carrier, IDC chief executive Mateyo Kaluba said it would play “a catalytic role” in reviving the country’s tourism industry, which had been hit hard by the pandemic. He underlined the shareholders' goal to operate the airline on commercial principles so as to achieve viability and a return on investment. “I strongly urge the board and management to manage the airline in accordance with international best practice. They have the responsibility to make Zambia Airways an airline that will bring pride and jobs to the Zambian people,” he stressed.

According to a report by the Committee on Energy, Water Development, and Tourism submitted to the 5th session of the Zambian National Assembly in April 2021, the Zambian government at that stage had invested about ZMW25 million kwacha (USD1.2 million) by financing the preparations for the start-up including works on aircraft hangars and aircraft engineering workshops; and the training of the airline’s 25 cabin crew. The government had engaged the Trade and Development Bank (TDB) to raise another USD11.5 million.

Other key milestones had included the acquisition of an Air Service Permit and an Air Operator Certificate (AOC), and the granting of the AZB designator code from the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).