What is the National Airline of Zambia?

Editorial credit: Sam DCruz / Shutterstock.com. Small regional planes are seen here in Zambia. Zambia currently has no national airline.

What is the National Airline of Zambia?

Zambia Airways was the national airline of Zambia until its collapse in 1994. During its establishment in 1964, the airline was part of the greater Central African Airways and operated three DHC-2 Beaver and two Douglas DC-3 aircraft. The airline operated flights to Kenya, Malawi, Tanzania, and Mauritius. After it became an independent airline in 1967, it acquired two BAC 1-11-207s and several HS.748s aircraft. Zambia Airways also leased a DC-8 from Alitalia which operated on the Lusaka - London route twice a week via Nairobi and Rome. In 1975 the DC-8 and the BAC 1-11s were replaced by Boeing 707 and Boeing 737 respectively. Freight soars 52.8% while the number of passengers increased by 22.39%. In 1971, Simon C. Katilungu took over as the chairman of the airline and immediately began talks with the Botswana, and in 1972 the airlines began direct flights between Lusaka and Gaborone.

In early 1976 two Irish Stratoliners were delivered, and in June 1976 a B-737-2M9A arrived and began operating flights from Lusaka to Frankfurt. In August of the same year, the airline faced its first pilot strike that left the airplanes grounded for four months. On May 14, 1977, the airline experienced its first airplane crash when a Boeing crash-landed in Lusaka. In July of the same year, Zambia Airways received its first wide-body aircraft, a DC-10-30, which was a move that led the British government to limit the airline flights to London. On April 1, 1988, the DC-10-30 began flights to New York via Monrovia. In April 1989, Zambia airlines signed a pact with Pakistan International Airlines Corporation (PIA) in which the Asian carrier would provide computerization, engineering, accounting, and technical assistance. In May of the same year, the airline leased a DC-8-61 from Nationair, Ltd to double the flights to New York through Monrovia. In 1990 the airline acquired an MD-11, and in December it became the only airline outside of the US to order a B-757-23APF after leasing one from Ansett Worldwide Aviation.

The Fall of the Airline

By 1991 the airline employed about 2,130 people. However, the crisis in the Middle East at the time led to an increase in operational costs, particularly related to the cost of fuel. The airline was forced to terminate flights to New York, the number of passengers fell 37.2%. Furthermore, the order placed on the MD-11 was canceled due to a weak financial position. In 1993 the airline reduced its employees to about 1,900 and disposed a B-757-23APF. The government set off a restructuring program to save the airline from bankruptcy including the sale of several assets.

In 1994 the government hired more employees and set off a plan to privatize the airline. The airline showed signs of recovering but still owed about $100 million in debt. On December 3, 1994, the airline ceased operations, all employees were dismissed, and the company was liquidated. The airline’s DC-10-30 planes were sold to Monarch Air Lines, Ltd. in 1995. On July 2, 2017, the Minister of Transport and Communications stated that the government had plans to re-establish the airline although no official statement has been issued by the government.


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