TRAVEL agents and passengers are in a quandary following a decision this week by Air Zimbabwe to charge airport handling taxes in foreign
The decision has jeopardised travel plans for many over the coming festive season.
A memorandum sent to travel agents on Monday instructs them to “collect taxes that do not accrue to government and remit these to Air Zimbabwe”.
Air Zimbabwe yesterday increased fares by between 300% and 350%.
Passengers travelling to and from London are now required to pay US$76 over and above the fare of $1,4 million. The taxes for those travelling to China are US$11, Dubai US$8 and South Africa US$31. The local currency component of the fares to the destinations is $2,5 million, $1,3 million and $340 000 respectively.
Agents are now required to collect the taxes in US dollars together with the airfare unlike in the past when they sold tickets incorporating required taxes in local currency.
“The banks won’t give you the foreign currency for the taxes. They laugh at you when you try to make an application,” a travel agent who refused to be named told the Zimbabwe Independent on Wednesday.
“The only way to get the foreign currency is on the black market. I find it difficult to understand how passengers are expected to get the hard currency when banks cannot assist because they say they do not have any,” the travel agent said.
The national airline has blamed the unstable currency exchange rate for its losses after collecting departure fees in local currency for destinations out of the country where they are required to pay in foreign currency.
Air Zimbabwe spokesperson, David Mwenga, said Air Zimbabwe had been losing millions of dollars after remitting foreign currency to authorities in other countries.
“Air Zimbabwe had been losing a lot (after) collecting (taxes) in Zimbabwe dollars, for departure fees out of Johannesburg or London or any other external departure point but remitting to the authorities in those destinations in foreign currency,” Mwenga said in response to questions from the Independent.
“Because of the changes (increases) in exchange rates, we often end up making losses, as we are obliged to remit the exact foreign currency component to the authorities, sourcing that foreign currency at a loss to ourselves,” said Mwenga.
There was no confirmation of where the airline has been sourcing its foreign currency all along but central bank governor Gideon Gono is on record as saying the airline has been on a life support system from the central bank.
“We now require that even if you are a Zimbabwean and pay your fares in local currency, for any travel outside our borders, where airport departure fees are required to be paid in foreign currency, the passenger now pays that portion in foreign currency,” said Mwenga.
Because of the losses incurred, the airline owes foreign creditors US$23 million and $400 million to local creditors, excluding the Parastatals Reorientation Programme (PARP) loans that stood at $1,381 billion and $2,6 billion which was advanced to the parastatal without being covered by PARP as at July 31.