Malawi currency crisis: Kenya Airways and Ethiopian Airlines suspend ticket sales
For several months, Malawi has been facing a shortage of foreign exchange reserves. To address this, the government opened its tobacco market early and the Reserve Bank of Malawi (RBM) required that 30% of the foreign exchange earned from the sale of tobacco be sold to the RBM immediately. Unfortunately, this is not enough to solve the problem of lack of foreign exchange reserves.
Malawian-based travel agencies can no longer sell tickets for Kenya Airways (KQ) flights. The Kenyan parastatal carrier suspended its ticketing authority in the Malawi market with immediate effect on Wednesday 18 May 2022 for all agents (including KQ CTOS and ATOS) until further notice. This decision is motivated by the increasing difficulties in repatriating foreign currency in Malawi in recent years.
From now on, KQ customers based in the country are invited to purchase their tickets via its official website, by credit or debit card. "In the meantime, Kenya Airways is working on a solution," the company promises. It follows in the footsteps of Ethiopian Airlines, the Ethiopian public carrier, which, the day before, had also suspended the authority to issue its tickets on the Malawian market. This information was revealed to the local press by the secretary of the Malawi Association of Travel Agents, Eliza Chimbaya.
The problem of repatriation of airline revenues is not unique to Malawi. Indeed, on 19 August 2021, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) estimated that foreign carriers' funds were stranded in about 20 countries at about $963 million. Lebanon ($175.5 million), Nigeria ($143.8 million), Bangladesh ($146.1 million) and Zimbabwe ($142.7 million) accounted for over 60% of this debt. The latter two nations have nevertheless reduced their respective debts in recent months.