South African carrier Comair is still hoping to push ahead with plans to establish a new airline in Malawi and is planning to set a deadline to conclude talks on the project.

Comair, which is a British Airways franchise partner and also operates South African budget brand Kulula, has been in discussions with the Malawian Government since 2007 over plans to liquidate Air Malawi and start a fresh airline for the country. It plans to take a 49% stake in the new venture to avoid losing Malawian traffic rights.

Speaking to ATI at the World Low Cost Airlines Congress in Barcelona, Kulula joint chief Gidon Novick said: "We are still confident of concluding a deal. We will put a deadline on it and hopefully we will be able to pull something off."

He adds that the deadline will expire in the next couple of months, noting that the project was put "in limbo" by a change of government in Malawi.

Air Malawi is still flying with a reduced operation, says Novick, but he adds that the airline is loss-making and "not really sustainable". He says it makes sense to work together on the project, using Comair's infrastructure and skills.

Novick says the Malawian venture would operate "maybe one turboprop" from Comair and "a couple of single-aisle aircraft" on domestic and short-haul international routes.

Comair is also open to involvement with other African projects, he adds: "It makes sense for us to look for ways we can use our cost base and infrastructure to aid and create sustainable carriers throughout Africa."

One potential project relates to Air Zimbabwe. Novick says: "We are engaged with the Zimbabwean Government. We are at the discussion and exploration stage."

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news