From : Newsday.co.zw

By : Bernard Mpofu Chief Business Reporter

1 November 2012

TOURISM and Hospitality Industry minister Walter Mzembi has said failure by national carrier Air Zimbabwe (AirZim) to service domestic routes has created a vacuum on intra country air traffic despite renewed interest by international airlines flying into the country.

Addressing delegates at a breakfast meeting to mark the relaunch of KLM Royal Dutch Airlines on Monday, Mzembi said Cabinet had resolved to tackle problems at the troubled airline, which has debts estimated at $150 million.

AirZim has indicated it will resume regional flights on November 12.

“There is a lot of re-equipping of the airline (needed). It has a lot of issues, but we have agreed as government that we assume the Air Zimbabwe debt so that we help clean up the balance sheet and assume some of their very cardinal debts to facilitate their re-entry on the market,” Mzembi said.

“It would not be easy since they have been away from action for quite some time. It’s very important to have them back because we need internal distribution of tourists.

Arriving through KLM at Harare International Airport is not enough, we need to redistribute and distribute the tourists inside the country.

‘Harare- Lusaka route has great opportunities’

KLM executive vice-president in charge of marketing, revenue management and network, Pieter Bootsma, on Tuesday spoke on a number of issues regarding Zimbabwe and the airline’s resumption of the Harare route.

Below are excepts:
We really see the development of Zimbabwe. We see the touristic attractiveness of Zimbabwe. We opened Lusaka this year and we think the combination with Harare is really a great one going forward.

Bootsma said the nod to get back to Zimbabwe took a couple of months from between decision to fly and full implementation
The civil aviation authority was really helpful as they accepted us coming back. In fact, it was not a real challenge as we got a lot of support.

The issue of landing fees is still an issue for us. We consider them too high and in order to secure our operation going forward we really hope the landing fees can come down. If we compare with other African countries, what we experienced in Zimbabwe today is the highest.

With Emirates flying to Dubai, we have competition mainly on indirect markets, connecting markets. On the one hand, our Amsterdam hub has a well-established network with destinations in Europe that we fly into especially Scandinavia, UK and Germany. Emirates has no direct flights from Dubai to those destinations. On some markets,   we are competing peacefully with Emirates, while on other we have unique visions.

Our aim in the end is to move our frequency to a higher level from three days a week that we have right now, but of course profitability needs to be proven first. First we need to prove we can fly Harare-Lusaka profitably and then we can start increasing frequency. Landing fees are part of the economic evaluation, so they need to be improved in order to make sure we are profitable and  we have profitable operations out of Harare. That is a condition before we can increase frequency into Harare.