London’s Gatwick Airport has confirmed that discussions are “at an advanced stage” for Air Zimbabwe to resume flights to the United Kingdom.
“We are at an advanced discussion stage,” a spokesperson for Gatwick airport said Monday, declining to give specific details.
Air Zimbabwe pulled out of flights to London in December 2011 after its aircraft was seized at Gatwick.
Another plane was also seized for the same reasons at Johannesburg in South Africa resulting in the airline dropping regional routes as its operations virtually ground to a halt.
But a new management board appointed early this year has moved to revive the national carrier with the re-launch on a number of domestic routes and flights to South Africa.
The airline had initially targeted a July return to London but management has now set a new target date of November 15 after the carrier has refurbished its two B767-200ERs.
The government has also acquired two Airbus A320 aircraft to boost the company’s fleet with one of them already deployed on the Harare-Johannesburg route.
“After the resumption of its operations and the acquisition of two Airbus A320, Air Zimbabwe has signed a contract with Air France KLM Group to ensure the aircraft have the necessary support,” the Air France group said in a statement.
“The contract includes access to the Air France KLM pool, with repairs at the time of flight and the provision of a Main Base Kit, located initially in Johannesburg, then in Harare.
“Along with this agreement, Air Zimbabwe has decided to entrust AFI-KLM with the maintenance and repair of the aircraft engines.”
A 50-seater Brazil-made Embraer ERJ145 jet was also added to the fleet and deployed on domestic routes, boosting services between Harare, Bulawayo and the Victoria Falls resort, with Hwange and Kariba expected to be covered soon.
Air Zimbabwe was said to be battling debts of up to US$100m but a spokesman recently said the airline’s financial troubles were over-stated.
“Our problems are often overstated. For instance, although it is widely claimed that the company is saddled with a US$140 million debt, the fact is US$100 million of that is owed to the shareholder (the government),” the official said, asking not to be named.
“What this means is that our actual obligations amount to about US$40 million which is not unmanageable considering the airline’s asset base.”
In June transport minister Nicholas Goche also confirmed that Air Zimbabwe had re-registered with the International Air Transport Association (IATA) following its suspension last year for failing to carry out safety audits which must be carried out every two years.
Date: 12 August 2013