THE embattled national airline Air Zimbabwe is set to reintroduce daily flights to Johannesburg in the next two weeks as the carrier works towards a return to full schedule in preparation for the upcoming United Nations (UN) World Tourism Organisation summit in Victoria Falls in August.
However, with confidence in the national airline at a record low, saddled by a $100m debt, salary disputes, inconsistent flight service and an aged aircraft fleet, Tourism and Hospitality Minister Walter Mzembi has mooted approaching South African Airways (SAA) to be the official carrier for the UN summit.
Mr Mzembi said recently SAA was a “natural choice” as it controlled the largest single chunk of Zimbabwe’s airline industry, with almost 30% of market share. Air Zimbabwe flies only four times a week into SA from Harare, in contrast to the daily flights offered by SAA and British Airways.
On Wednesday, Air Zimbabwe chairman Ozias Bvute said maintenance checks were being done on the airline’s two leased Airbus A320-200 aircraft and the Chinese-manufactured MA60 aircraft. The MA60 would be used to service the domestic Harare-Bulawayo route daily. At present it is served only four times a week.
“We hope the process will be completed in the next two weeks, and once the check is complete, we will take the opportunity to fly from Harare to Johannesburg and Bulawayo on a daily basis.
“The Airbus has newer technology, it has more fuel efficiency and it will help boost our efficiency as a national carrier,” said Mr Bvute.
Since last year, Air Zimbabwe, has been under increasing pressure from the government to make a return to the skies to compete with the increasing number of foreign airlines that continue to make a beeline into the country.
Egypt Air is the latest, indicating that it will resume flights to Zimbabwe on June 1. – BD