Air Zimbabwe Plane in SingaporeFrom : Allafrica.com
Walter Muchinguri
2 November 2011

AIR Zimbabwe has increased its flights into Victoria Falls from four to six due to increased demand as it seeks to shake off the negative effects of a pilot strike which grounded its fleet for months.

The airline is now flying every day except Saturday from Harare to Victoria Falls via Bulawayo until the MA 60 that normally services the route is back in operation.

Air Zimbabwe’s acting chief executive Mr Innocent Mavhunga said the MA 60 would be back in service on Thursday.

He said the growing interest in the Victoria Falls route was largely because the airline had managed to exploit the fact that it was the only airline offering a direct domestic flight between Harare and Victoria Falls.

“Due to this comparative disadvantage most visitors, especially tourists intending to visit Victoria Falls, prefer to fly into Harare and then proceed to Victoria Falls using our aircraft,” he said,

“The other advantage is that we are flying to Bulawayo where the flight picks up Harare and Victoria Falls-bound passengers before proceeding to Victoria Falls and back to Harare.”

Mr Mavhunga said they were satisfied with the progress made so far, despite the fact that the Boeing 737-200 they are using for the Victoria Falls route has yet to attract full bookings.

“This is largely due to the fact that we had an equipment change because the MA60 that normally services the route was recently grounded as it was due for service,” he said.

“Prior to its grounding the MA60 had been attracting full bookings.”

Looking ahead, Mr Mavhunga said he believed that Air Zimbabwe had “turned the corner” and was almost back to normal.

“Obviously we lost some customers as a result of the strike but we have some loyal customers who have stood by us who came on board when we started flying again,” he said.

He added that, as an airline, they were striving to be as efficient as possible – including being on time.

“Save for a few minor technical challenges, we have managed to keep to our schedules and things have been moving smoothly, ” he said.

Turning to other routes, Mr Mavhunga said they had been doing well, especially during weekends when there was an increase in passengers,.

He singled out the Johannesburg route where they are running the Mzansi promotion, where the airline is offering discount rates, as an example where the airline is enjoying good numbers.

The airline is currently operating with three aircraft two Boeing 767-200 and a Boeing 737-300.

Apart from the MA 60 that was grounded for servicing, the airline’s other two MA60 planes have major technical faults that need attention.

Air Zimbabwe was grounded between July 29 and September 15 due to a crippling strike by pilots who were demanding that the airline settle their outstanding salaries.

The airline resumed operations after receiving US$2,8 million from the Government to start operations after the strike.

Since then Arizim has been on “a mission” to regain its lost market share.