Does it make sense? LAM Mozambique announces Maputo-Lisbon
Today, 8th October, LAM Mozambique announced that it will operate a three-weekly service between Maputo and Lisbon from March 2020. This will use a wet leased Hi Fly A340-300 in a 267-seat configuration. This is a step up from LAM Mozambique’s next largest aircraft, the B737-700, of which it has two, along two Embraer 190s and, through its Express unit, two Dash-8-400s. Maputo – Lisbon is a recommencement, its the service ending in 2011 due to the airline being blacklisted by the EU.
An estimated 80,000 people of Mozambique heritage live in Portugal and, paradoxically, 20,000+ Portuguese went to Mozambique in 2013/2014 following the economic troubles that afflicted the country.
In the 12 months to August 2019, 99,000 passengers flew between Mozambique and Portugal, up 2% YOY, with the demand primarily VFR-driven. Perhaps surprisingly, Portugal and Mozambique aren’t big trading partners. To Lisbon alone, 78,000 passengers were carried across all airlines.
João Carlos Pó Jorge, LAM Mozambique’s General Director, said: “[Our service will] satisfy strong demand from customers, including the Mozambican diaspora in Portugal, who had long awaited our direct flights, which is confirmed by market research.”
TAP operates a thrice-weekly service from Lisbon, which is to be operated by the A330-900neo from W19 – significantly more fuel-efficient than the A340-300 it’ll replace and with a better product.
In the year to August 2019, it’s estimated that TAP carried about 79,000 passengers, made up of 48,400 P2P passengers to/from Lisbon and 30,700 connecting over Lisbon – for a SLF of 77%. The pro rata airfare from Lisbon to Maputo – across all airlines – was just $396*, not much for a 5,200-mile sector, as a result of disproportionately strong economy demand. By contrast, the pro rata airfare to Luanda – through which three-quarters of connecting passengers to Lisbon transit – was $496*, a sector of just over 1,700 miles.
The numbers – even at a very high level – don’t seem to stack up for LAM Mozambique to begin this service, leading to the inevitable conclusion: it must be politically motivated. Which is a shame, for it makes infinitely more sense for African airlines to first develop a strong, sound domestic/regional operation before even considering launching fanciful and expensive and very risky long-haul services – if they need to at all, given the possibility for partnerships.
*One-way, USD, excluding taxes and fuel surcharges and averaged across all cabins. Source of data: OAG Traffic Analyser.
TAP gets enough subsidies to not make money because of the high salaries and privileges of their crew and senior corporate vultures, so no, let LAM come in with a leased aircraft. TAAG did the same from Luanda some years ago. It went well for them. Cheers from Lisbon.