Airline Startup Of The Week: Zambia Airlines

Southern Africa is all set to receive its newest carrier: Zambia Airlines. The new flag carrier of its home country will begin operating flights from 30th September, starting with domestic and regional routes. The carrier is backed by Ethiopian Airlines, which took a 45% stake in the startup airline in 2018.

Silhouette Of A Departing Aircraft During Sunset
Zambia Airlines will start operations with a fleet of three aircraft. Photo: Getty Images


According to ch-aviation, Zambia Airlines has announced the date of its first flight. The startup carrier will kick off flights on 30th September, said the airline’s board this week. The airline has been in the works since late 2018 but has been delayed due to regulatory hurdles and later, the pandemic.

However, three years later, Zambia Airlines is ready to get off the ground. The carrier is owned by the state-backed Industrial Development Corporation (55%) and Ethiopian Airlines (45%). The pair have invested $30 million in capital to prepare the carrier for operations. Ethiopian is a major backer, providing the leased fleet and training dozens of pilots and crew for operations.

Zambia Airways 737
Zambia Airlines will take over from Zambian Airways as the new flag carrier, over a decade after the latter collapsed. Photo: via Wikimedia Commons

25 cabin crew and five pilots have been trained and type-rated at Ethiopian Aviation Academy. Zambia Airlines will begin operations with a fleet of three aircraft, consisting of two DHC Dash-8-Q400s and one Boeing 737-800.

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Zambia Airlines is targeting the domestic and Southen African market upon its launch. The two turboprop Q400s will serve domestic routes from Lusaka to Livingstone, Ndola, and Solwezi. Meanwhile, the 737 will be deployed on flights to Johannesburg, South Africa, and Harare, Zimbabwe.

However, ZN will not be without competition. Two other airlines operate a similar domestic network as the newcomer, Mahogany Air and Proflight Zambia. While both these airlines operate smaller aircraft, they will pose a challenge in the short term. However, as ZN grows, it is likely to secure a larger market share.

Ethiopian 737-800
Ethiopian operates a fleet of 20 737NGs and 21 Q400s, giving it room to lease out more planes. Photo: Alan Wilson via Wikimedia Commons

Ethiopian Airlines has no shortage of turboprops and narrowbodies. The carrier flies four 737-700s and 16 -800s, a quarter of which are sitting inactive currently. The airline also has 21 Q400s, with three more scheduled for delivery. If ZN sees strong demand, it could even order its own fleet for the future.


Zambia has not had a flag carrier since 2009, when the erstwhile Zambian Airways (not to be confused with the historic Zambia Airways) went bankrupt. Since then, the aviation market has seen three startup airlines that have met some of the demand. However, there is space for a major carrier to boost capacity on domestic and international routes.

As Africa’s largest airline, Ethiopian has been eager to invest in new airlines and grow its influence. As neighboring South African struggles with bankruptcy, Ethiopian has been setting up and buying stakes in several airlines in recent years. The coming months will tell us more about Zambia Airlines and if it will be a success.

What do you think about Zambia Airlines’ plans? Let us know in the comments!