Maputo — Mozambique Airlines (LAM) has expanded its fleet by hiring two medium haul aircraft, which were baptized in Maputo on Friday.
One of the planes is a Boeing 737-500, named Zalala, after a tourist resort in Inhambane province. It can carry 111 passengers (99 in economy class and 12 in business class) and 14 tonnes of cargo.
The second plane is a Brazilian Embraer-190, named Chaimite, after an area in Gaza province which was the site of the final battle between the invading Portuguese army and the most powerful of the pre-colonial Mozambican states, the Gaza Empire. The Embraer's capacity is rather less than that of the Boeing – it can carry 103 passengers (84 in economy class and nine in business class) and 12.7 tonnes of cargo.
Addressing the ceremony, Transport Minister Paulo Zucula said the expansion of the LAM fleet will enable the airline to reach more destinations, so that by the end of 2015, the company can fly to at least one destination in all 14 member states of the Southern African Development Community.
This is a tall order – currently LAM has scheduled flights to South Africa, Zimbabwe, Angola, and Tanzania.
As yet, the airline has no flights to nine of the SADC member states in good standing – Swaziland, Lesotho, Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, Malawi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Mauritius and Seychelles.
A 15th country, Madagascar, remains suspended from SADC, following the 2009 military coup.
Zucula added that, within Mozambique, "we want to consolidate the routes to all provincial capitals, as well as to districts of economic, political and social importance".
For her part, the LAM Chief Executive Officer, Marlene Manave, said the company has acquired the two aircraft under a regime of operational leasing, paying about 850,000 US dollars for three months rent in advance. She said LAM opted for leasing, since it is not currently able to buy new aircraft.
"The Boeing is second hand, and has been in service for five years", she said. "The Embraer is brand new, and was made for us – but LAM didn't buy it, because we don't have the money. Another company purchased it, and has leased it to us for a period of 12 years".
Leasing the two planes, Manave added, is part of LAM's restructuring plans, focused on modernizing its fleet and rationalizing resources.
Initially, the two aircraft will be put to work domestically, on the routes that currently have the greatest demand, serving the cities of Beira, Tete, Nampula and Pemba, in the centre and north of the country.
"With these two aircraft, we are increasing our capacity and our supply of services and products, with more direct flights", said Manave. "At the same time, we are guaranteeing greater reliability, and reducing our operational costs".