Maputo — The management of Mozambique Airlines (LAM) told reporters on Thursday that the reason for recent delays in its flights is that it is operating with a reduced fleet, since two of its 12 aircraft are undergoing scheduled maintenance.
Speaking at a Maputo press conference, the company's Chief Executive Officer, Marleyn Manave, warned that the LAM timetable would only return to normal in September, when the maintenance is complete.
This is maintenance that can take several weeks, and it is undertaken outside the country. The two LAM planes concerned (an Embraer-190 and a Bombardier Q-400) are undergoing maintenance in Brazil and in Ethiopia, and this has reduced LAM's capacity by about 20 per cent. The purpose, Manave stressed, is to ensure the safety of the passengers.
Once these planes return, two other aircraft will leave the country for maintenance, which is why the delays are expected to persist until September.
“Our aircraft go for major maintenance after completing a certain number of cycles, and on average this is once every two years”, Manave said. “Because LAM has no back-up planes delays in flights to certain destinations are experienced”.
That was the price of expansion. LAM was now flying to more destinations than ever before, inside the country, and in the region. On peak days there are 18 LAM departures from Maputo, whereas up until the mid-1990s there were no more than five
The three new generation Boeing 737-700s which LAM is now acquiring, Manave said, were not to cope with the current problem of delays, but to respond to increasing market demand. LAM has plans to open new routes - to Durban and Cape Town in South Africa, for example, and to Lusaka.
As for breakdowns, the most recent problem was with an Embraer-120, operated by LAM's subsidiary MEX, which was returning from the tourist resort of Vilankulo to Maputo last Tuesday, with 24 passengers on board.
MEX chairperson Antonio Neves told the press conference that the take-off was aborted when white smoke was noted. “The smoke resulted from rapid evaporation in the air conditioning system, which is anomalous. It shouldn't happen”, he said.
The passengers disembarked, but an hour later the problem with the air conditioning was solved, and the plane flew to Maputo without any further mishap.
The LAM director of operations, Joao Jorge, said that LAM has always abided scrupulously by internationally recommended safety procedures, and is regularly audited by the relevant institutions.
“What the public normally calls a breakdown is sometimes an indication of an existing or potential problem”, he added. “What we have is an indication that a component is probably failing”.
When that happens in mid-air “our policy is to return to base (Maputo)”, he said, “because it's here that we have the material, the staff and the support to solve these problems”.
Manave also attacked certain newspapers (which she did not name) for waging a campaign against LAM, with “false and groundless” charges against the company.
“These false declarations show a total lack of respect for the more than 800 professionals who work day and night to guarantee the safe transport of passengers”, she said.
And, as if to prove her right, this week's edition of the right wing weekly “Canal de Mocambique”, carried the sneering front page headline “LAM going from bad to worse”.