THREE DECADES AGO PROFLIGHT ZAMBIA TOOK TO THE SKY
L USAKA, ZAMBIA – This year marks 30 years that Proflight has been flying in the Zambian and African skies; a record that no other private airline in Zambia’s aviation history has managed to beat. Since 1991, Zambia’s leading airline has connected Zambia to the Southern Africa region, linking businesses and reconnecting families and friends.
In 1991, Proflight took to the Zambian skies. The airline’s initial goal was to make flying safe, efficient, reliable and friendly for all Zambians and, over the years, most will agree there is little doubt that the airline has continuously gone above and beyond to achieve its goal.
“Three decades – no small feat”
When the airline was set up by former Zambian Airways pilot Tony Irwin (now Proflight Managing Director), the company had only one five-seater Beechcraft Baron aircraft. Today, Proflight claims the top spot as Zambia’s leading scheduled airline, with a fleet including a 50-seater Bombardier CRJ-100 jet, and three 29-seater Jetstream 41 aircraft.
Proflight now employs 144 people. With one exception, its 26-strong senior management team is entirely Zambian. “Three decades aloft is no small feat. We are truly proud to be the first Zambian airline to celebrate this great achievement,” said Proflight Chairman Capt. Philip Lemba. “And while we have helped pioneer Zambia towards being a more mobile, travel-savvy generation of flyers, making air travel more accessible, it is our loyal Proflight customers who are behind our success, and we thank them for all their support,” he added Spurring the local travel scene The past three decades have been both rewarding and fulfilling – as well as challenging. The airline democratised the local airspace by giving Zambians the opportunity to travel within their country and beyond for leisure and business purposes. This has been demonstrated by the increase in air travel among Zambians in the past decade.
In recent years, the airline has seen the opening of new routes within Zambia and in the southern Africa region. From its base in Lusaka, its domestic routes have grown to include Livingstone, Mfuwe, Lower Zambezi, Ndola and Solwezi. Throughout the years, Proflight has brought the wonder of air travel to thousands. In 2013, the airline carried over 135,000 passengers, and the number has been on the rise since then – until the impact of COVID-19 which has dramatically affected travel globally.
In the company’s early days, its primary focus was on tourism-related travel, flying people to national parks, but to reflect the needs of its diverse clientele, today Proflight’s backbone is business travel, particularly in the mining sector. The on-demand Lusaka-Solwezi route goes to show this. Its role in the economic growth of the nation is a key factor in its success, and it is a position it hopes will come to the fore again as the world comes out of the COVID-19 bubble revitalises its economies.
Synergy as key to success
The company has created synergy and strategic partnerships with other players on the market. Proflight signed its first code-share agreement with RwandAir in 2015, while several interline agreements are in place with South African Airlines, Emirates, Ethiopian Airlines and Kenya Airways.
More recently, the airline signed a partnership agreement with CemAir of South Africa, complementing route networks between Zambia and South Africa, providing customers with a seamless travel experience. Under this partnership, Proflight clients can use CemAir’s ticket sales desk at OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, as well as CemAir call centre to make or change bookings, and vice versa. The initiative will enable seamless connections on one ticket between the two airlines’ networks which include Lusaka, Ndola, Livingstone, Mfuwe in Zambia on the Proflight network and Plettenberg Bay, Margate, Johannesburg on the CemAir network in South Africa.
Here to stay
Having weathered storms and enjoyed successes over the years, Proflight remains optimistic for the future and committed to connecting Zambia to the region. “We are here to stay in order to fulfil our mission to ensure essential connectivity between Zambia and the region with a significant economic contribution. In addition, our vision sees Proflight continuing to be a key player in the region’s aviation market, while maintaining a continuous growth path and innovative improvement of passenger experience, further positioning Zambia as a business centre and travel hub in the Southern Africa region,” said Capt. Lemba.
As the airline flies into a new decade, its achievements and milestones in the last 30 years tell the story of a true Zambia success. And as a pioneer in Zambia’s aviation industry, Proflight is celebrating the last decade with renewed optimism for a future of continued growth, while reflecting on the evolution and needs of the industry and society.
Despite the negative effects of COVID-19 Proflight Zambia remains focussed on its goal of connecting the nation. The airline commits to stay true to its four values: safety, reliability, efficiency and friendly service.