By : MERNAT MAFIRAKUREWA, CHIEF BUSINESS REPORTER – Oct 21 2011
The Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe (CAAZ) says it is geared to handle dozens of airlines that have shown interest in plying the Harare route.
The government has been on a charm offensive to lure back foreign airlines that stopped flying into the country a decade ago.
Some of the airlines targeted include Qatar Airways and Singapore Airlines.
CAAZ chief executive officer David Chawota told NewsDay on the sidelines of the launch of the Airbus 330 – 200 by South African Airways (SAA) last week, that upgrading of Harare International Airport was progressing well.
Airline giant Emirates has also added Harare and Lusaka in Zambia as its newest destinations beginning in February next year.
“Remember we used to handle up to 34 airlines at one time. The challenge then was parking space, but with the new terminal building we have increased capacity,” said Chawota.
“They can come in their dozens, we can handle them.”
He said all planes were capable of landing at the airport.
Chawota said CAAZ would soon move to the upgrading of the runway at Harare International Airport.
He said CAAZ remained hopeful the government would approve the introduction of an airport levy as a way to raise funds for the construction and expansion of airport infrastructure.
“We would want the tax introduced as soon as possible. We operate in a much regulated environment. When all approvals have been made, there is then the process of operationalising the system.
“We can’t just wake up one day and make pronouncements, particularly with the airline industry.”
SAA now flies to Harare 21 times a week from 14, while flights on the Victoria Falls route are seven times weekly.
SAA seats that started off at 3 920 per week, rose to 4 390 and ended the year in December at 5 264. This year, seats increased to 5 394.
Demand on the Victoria Falls route had also increased to 1 680 seats from December’s 1 162.
CAAZ early this year postponed the introduction of the proposed levy for domestic and international travellers at the country’s airports citing logistical and administrative challenges.
According to the Ministry of Finance, ensuring the country becomes a destination of choice for tourists will require at least $350 million for upgrading airport infrastructure to international standards.
“Reconsideration of the implementation of the aviation infrastructure development levy, complemented by private capital, should unlock sufficient finance for all airport infrastructure rehabilitation and upgrading programmes,” said Finance Minister Tendai Biti in a pre-Budget statement a fortnight ago.