Lilongwe-based Malawian Airlines, which is 49%-owned by Ethiopian Airlines, has opened its first international route between Lilongwe and Johannesburg.

Ethiopian strategic partner Malawian Airlines was founded in July 2013 and launched operations on Jan. 31 with a single Bombardier Q400 and a Boeing 737-800. Its inaugural route was a domestic service between Lilongwe and Blantyre in Malawi.

On Feb. 17, Malawian Airlines operated its first international service, marking the debut of its daily service between Lilongwe and Johannesburg, via Blantyre. It is serving the route using a 737-800, configured with 154 seats in a two-class configuration.

Ethiopian has a 49% equity stake in Malawian, alongside the Malawian government, and has a management contract for the new airline.

Lilongwe is Ethiopian’s third African hub, joining its home base at Addis Ababa and Lome in Togo, where it has an equity partnership with local carrier ASKY Airlines.

Earlier in February, Ethiopian Airlines CEO Tewolde Gebremariam told ATW he plans to partner with the government to set up a fourth airline in the Democratic Republic of Congo.