After 18 months in limbo, Zimbabwe’s flag carrier, Air Zimbabwe, is back in the air, pleasing the new administration in the southern African country.
“The turnaround of the national carrier, Air Zimbabwe, is on a firm pedestal,” the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) quoted President Robert Mugabe as saying.
Mugabe, who recently won the presidential elections in a landslide victory, was speaking at the opening of Parliament recently.
Mugabe’s 33 years in office was added with another five years in July this year.
It was in April this year that the flag carrier resumed day-to-day voyages to its neighbouring country, South Africa. This came after the airline received a $10 million bailout from the state.
Air Zimbabwe’s straight journey to Victoria Falls from Johannesburg recommenced in July this year. According to WSJ, the carrier will resume flights between Harare and London in November this year as well. During October the airline will also be extending its network to Zambia, Malawi and Durban in South Africa.
|Fast facts: Air Zimbabwe routes|
|Harare – Johannesburg route commenced||April 2013|
|Johannesburg – Victoria Falls route commenced||July 2013|
|Regional flights to Zambia, Malawi and Durban commenced||October 2013|
|Harare – London route commences||November 2013|
Up to the close of September this year, the carrier will be extending a 50 percent reduction in tickets to its customers.
However, Air Zimbabwe continues to be constrained by lack of funds, old fashioned kit, and political chaos in the country. According to WSJ, Air Zimbabwe has six working aircraft, including two brand new leased jets.
The number of visitors to Zimbabwe is up 17% this year from a year ago, according to the government.
Tour operators have been encouraging travelers to visit the falls, one of the top three tourist destinations in Africa, from Zimbabwe instead of Zambia because it is less expensive and because new lodges have opened in the past year.
That rise in tourism is filling Air Zimbabwe’s planes. They are around 90% full on average, according to airline spokeswoman Shingai Taruvinga.
The Transport Ministry says about 40% of Air Zimbabwe’s customers are international.
Meanwhile, the wide use of the U.S. dollar and other stable currencies instead of Zimbabwe’s own currency has kept the airline’s debt under control. With that footing, Air Zimbabwe plans to expand across Africa to reach new customers.
“We have to make sure it gets back on its feet,” Ms. Taruvinga says from her office overlooking Harare’s tarmac. “We represent the flag of the nation.”
Date: 27 September 2013