Struggling with a massive downturn in passenger flight demand because of COVID-19, Proflight Zambia (P0, Lusaka) has converted some of its aircraft into makeshift freighters to operate dedicated cargo flights between Lusaka and Johannesburg O.R. Tambo.

“Flying cargo is part of the airline’s attempt to stay afloat as passenger air travel diminished, although the airline hopes it will gradually increase towards the end of the year,” Proflight said in a statement. The airline said its scheduled passenger business had declined as fewer people were travelling on domestic routes and internationally owing to the pandemic.

The cargo service began last week and will operate every Tuesday and Thursday throughout September 2020. The company would initially use its BAe Jetstream 41s and upgrade to the CRJ100LR, where demand was high. Seats in the aircraft had been removed and replaced with cargo nets. An experienced engineer accompanied each flight to ensure optimal loading and carriage of all cargo. BidAir Cargo was responsible for all bookings and handling of freight.

Proflight Zambia Director (Flight Operations), Josias Walubita, will oversee the cargo operation and pilot some of the flights himself: “Proflight Zambia has invested in having cargo nets made and effective tie-downs procured to ensure that cargo can be safely secured in the cabin. All seats on the aircraft have been removed, allowing us to carry all types of cargo including live animals, perishables, and so on,” he explained.

“At the moment we have scheduled the Jetstream 41 to fly cargo, and we will increase to the CRJ if demand goes up. There are restrictions on sizes of the aircraft in terms of the dimensions of the cabin and baggage hold, and we are observing and taking safety precautions as the aircraft are initially passenger aircraft, which will be used for cargo,” he added.

Meanwhile, insiders said the nascent Zambia Airways (AZB, Lusaka), once it gets going, would make life even more difficult for Proflight, as the new national carrier would be heavily subsidised to gain market share and compete directly on the main domestic routes of Ndola, Solwezi, and Livingstone. Zambia Airways has received its Air Operators Certificate (AOC), but its launch date has not yet been announced. Observers in Zambia said the airline had been trialling a DHC-8-Q400 recently on a demonstration flight.

Proflight Zambia operates scheduled flights from Lusaka to local towns including Livingstone, Mfuwe, Lower Zambezi, Ndola, Solwezi, and regional routes to Durban King Shaka and Johannesburg O.R. Tambo in South Africa. It operates a 50-seater Bombardier CRJ-100 jet, three 29-seater Jetstream 41, and two 12-seater Cessna (single turboprop) 208 Caravans.

Editorial Comment: Added Caravans to fleet summary - 11.09.2020 - 04:37 UTC