A group of fans looking to travel to Ivory Coast (Cote d’Ivoire) to support the Zambia national team were left stranded after their plane faced mechanical issues. They had leased the 120-seater Boeing 737 aircraft at a charge of 275 thousand USD (4.6 million ZMW) from Zambian Regional Carrier, Mahogany Air.
The Zambia – Ivory Coast match which took place on Friday, June 3 saw the home country win with 3 goals against Zambia’s 1 goal. Unfortunately, fans of the Zambia national team as well as journalists and government officials were unable to make it to the match to render their support. The leased aircraft never made it to the Kenneth Kaunda International Airport in Lusaka where the Zambian supporters were waiting.
Mahogany Air explained that the Boeing 737 was supposed to fly from Johannesburg to Lusaka and then fly them to Ivory Coast, with a scheduled departure time of 8 PM on Thursday, June 2. The group was supposed to arrive in time for the match which was to kick off at 9 PM the following day and then return immediately after. However, the plane encountered mechanical issues and couldn’t make it in time.
Mahogany Air’s charterer, Dr Belemu kept communicating a new time of departure to the group, but by midnight, he was no longer reachable via phone till the following morning. The group was left in suspense and even had to spend the night at the extremely cold airport premises.
The Zambian Sports Minister, Elvis Nkandu and a few other government officials were eventually able to get a hold of Belemu in a meeting where he explained that the plane had encountered mechanical issues. The nature of said issues was never disclosed, but worse still, the airline had not put any alternative solution in place.
Nkandu and the others, very much displeased at the situation, demanded that their money be refunded or another plane provided.
However, time was running out, so Nkandu decided to salvage the situation by chartering a larger 250-seater plane from Proflight at a charge of 225 thousand USD – even cheaper than Mahogany Air’s charge for a smaller plane.
Unfortunately, the Zambian government could not make the payment for the new lease on time, so the group could not make it to the game.
Kangwa Chileshe, the secretary to the sports minister, expressed profound disappointment at the situation. “We did everything. We paid all the money at once because we didn’t want to leave gaps in the team’s preparations. We sent our officers from Cabinet Office to the Ivory Coast to organize hotels and vehicles and secure the team, and we wanted the team to be comfortable, to enjoy themselves so that they don’t have pressure. And we wanted everybody, including our supporters to be happy, but look at what we got from our own fellow Zambian! We gave the money to the ticketing office way ahead of time”
Nkandu, on the other hand, mostly lamented Belemu’s lack of straight-forwardness. “You know, he should have told the truth from the beginning, and not leave us in suspense and switching off the phone; that was not good at all. And look at the price difference, this is something the President talks about every time. Anyway, I am disappointed but this is an eye-opener; this delay has revealed something and we will use the lessons going forward.”
Sources: Simple Flying