Maputo — Mozambique Airlines (LAM) announced on Monday that it will resume direct flights between Maputo and Lisbon as from 31 March 2020.
Speaking at a Maputo press conference, the head of LAM's marketing department, Adil Ginabay, said that LAM has entered into an agreement with the Portuguese company Hi Fly for a wet lease on an Airbus A340.
Hi Fly describes itself as "a leading wide-body aircraft wet lease specialist operating worldwide". A wet lease is an arrangement that covers the hire, not only of an aircraft, but also of at least some of the crew.
Since LAM does not have staff trained to fly the Airbus, the pilots and other technical crew on the Maputo-Lisbon route will be employees of Hi Fly, while most of the cabin crew will be LAM staff.
There will be three flights a week, said Ginabay. On Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, the plane will fly from Lisbon to Maputo, making the return journey on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays.
The flight will have 260 seats - 206 in economy class, 42 in premium economy and 12 in business class. Ginabay claimed there is high demand for the Maputo-Lisbon route, and foresaw no difficulty in filling the flights.
He said LAM would practice "competitive tariffs". Currently the cheapest way to fly between Maputo and Lisbon is on the Angolan airline, TAAG, which involves a stopover in Luanda. AIM found return flights via the Angolan capital as cheap as 501.99 euros (about 552 US dollars) - which might be worth it for travellers prepared to spend 17 hours in Luanda.
The next cheapest option is on Turkish Airways, changing planes twice, at Johannesburg and Istanbul, and costing 546.99 euros.
Ginabay said that LAM was mainly targeting people interested in direct flights - and thus willing to pay extra to avoid the inconvenience of changing planes.
Asked whether it was wise to embark on this new route, given LAM's financial problems, Ginabay said that the company cannot just stand still. He was certain that the route will prove financially viable.
LAM is able to fly to Lisbon because Mozambican air companies were taken off the European Union's black list in May 2017. The ban on flying to European airspace was imposed in 2011, not because there were any concerns over LAM's safety, but because the Mozambican regulator, the Mozambique Civil Aviation Institute (IACM), did not meet EU standards.
A range of reforms carried out in the IACM led to the ban being lifted.