Africa’s last absolute monarchy revives airline after 23 years

Eswatini Air will fly from national capital Mbabane to cities such as Johannesburg and Cape Town in neighbouring South Africa starting later this year.
Image: Dimas Ardian/Bloomberg

Eswatini, Africa’s last absolute monarchy, is set to launch a flag-carrier airline almost a quarter of a century after the previous one ceased operations in the country formerly known as Swaziland.

Eswatini Air will fly from national capital Mbabane to cities such as Johannesburg and Cape Town in neighbouring South Africa starting later this year, Qiniso Dhlamini, chief executive officer of holding company Royal Eswatini National Airways Corp., said in a statement.

The state-owned company has bought two Embraer SA 145 regional jets to kickstart services, which are being painted in a livery including a logo featuring a bateleur eagle.

Eswatini Air will boost connectivity in the region after the grounding of South Africa’s Mango, which is in bankruptcy protection and awaiting government funds. The capacity shortage was exposed last month when Comair Ltd., operator of low-cost Kulula and local British Airways flights, was idled for five days amid safety concerns, leading to rocketing prices and chaos at airports.

The new carrier succeeds Royal Swazi National Airways, which ceased flying in 1999. Flights to Mbabane have since been operated by a joint venture between the government and South Africa’s Airlink, a partnership that has now been disbanded.

Airlink will continue to operate the Johannesburg-Mbabane route independently, CEO Rodger Foster said in a statement. The carrier will also offer to rehire workers for the partnership, which was called Eswatini Airlink.

© 2022 Bloomberg

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