THE COLLAPSE OF Zambia's flag carrier is proving the catalyst for the probable creation of a new domestic carrier and the possible formation of a network of southern African regional airlines.

South Africa's SA Express (SAX) has told Zambia that it is willing to fund 40% of the equity - representing $7-10 million - of a Lusaka-based regional airline modelled on its existing operation.

SAX financial director Michael Gray says that Zambian demand could support a carrier initially operating two 50-seat aircraft and, later, as many as four. He says that SAX, which will shortly accept the last two of 12 de Havilland Dash 8s, would acquire further aircraft of the same type for the operation.

"We would run it almost as a second base using Zambian pilots and most other staff. We would supply training, maintenance, infrastructure generally and management expertise", says Gray.

He does not dispute that SAX has also shown interest in a Kenyan operation and says: "If other areas open up, we could see a system opening through southern Africa with linked airlines."

In Zambia, SAX is discussing co-operation with "tertiary operators", which Gray would like to see operating on some routes.

Meanwhile, newly formed Alliance, owned by South African Airways, Uganda Airlines and Air Tanzania, remains the most likely candidate to take over Zambia Airways' long-haul operations.

Source: Flight International