A clip circulating on social media showing passengers using umbrellas to shield from a downpour after disembarking from an aircraft at Chileka International Airport has generated a lot of interest with others faulting government over its plans to build a multi-billion kwacha dual carriage way to Chileka Airport at a time when the airport lacks other key infrastructure.
The 11-kilometre Blantyre- Chileka Dual Carriage Way, estimated at K11 billion, is one of the development projects government unveiled recently. It is expected to become operational in the next two years.
A seasoned tourism expert, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said lack of a transport system to ferry passengers during the rainy season to the arrivals terminal only helps to entrench the picture of poverty to the outside world.
He said in the long-term, this defeats efforts aimed at boosting tourist flows into the country.
First Officer on Bombadier Dash 8-Q400, Lusekelo Mwenifumbo, said it may be justifiable that the airport does not have a bus due to resource constraints.
She, however, said while it may be considered a luxury at this point to procure a bus for Chileka Airport because of the distance between the landing bay and terminal, there is need to make special arrangements in such circumstances to ensure that there is service quality. Mwenifumbo observed that there is a lot more than needs to be done to ensure that local airports are at par with other countries in the region and the globe.
In a separate interview, Chief Flight Operations Officer in the Department of Civial Aviation, Hastings Jailosi, said there is no need to have passenger transportation based on the way the ramp and terminal are set at Chileka Airport.
He said, when the designers of the airport came up with the plan, transportation of passengers was not considered due to the distance.
Jailosi said: “In case of rain, the ground handling needs to provide umbrellas as they did. This is very common in many parts of the world having an airport similar to Chileka.”
He further said the option of procuring an air bridge would need to be justified based on passenger figures.
“These are very expensive and they may require a complete change in the design. Apart from that, personnel to operate and maintain need to be trained,” Jailosi said.
The Economics Association of Malawi has since said government should consider running the projects [transport and road network] concurrently.
When contacted, Minister of Industry, Trade and Tourism, Henry Mussa, said government plans to run the project geared at modernising Chileka Airport concurrently with construction of the dual carriage way.
While he could not indicate the time frame in which this would be done, Mussa said government is on course to make this dream a reality and that progress is being made to identify key stakeholders such as the contractor, funding agent and procurement agent, among others.
“At this point, it is a matter of identifying who does what. The good thing is that in principle, government resolved to come up with these two very important infrastructures; the international airport and the dual carriage way,” he said.