CHINA has made available to Air Zimbabwe two short-range aircraft each with a carrying capacity of 60 passengers despite earlier promises that the much-trumpeted deal would
see the airline getting a long haul plane.
Air Zimbabwe is unable to secure funds for the purchase of the two Chinese-made MA60 planes and hopes that the recently launched flight between Harare and Beijing would raise revenues have suffered a major blow.
The Zimbabwe Independent has established that the flight between Harare and Beijing was already facing serious viability problems due to low passenger bookings. The long haul Boeing 767 plying the route is averaging less than 50 passengers after the inaugural flight two weeks ago.
A physical count of the passengers that were on the plane when it returned to Harare International Airport on Wednesday morning showed about 35 passengers had travelled from Beijing.
The same trend characterises flights from Harare to Beijing. Most of the passengers have been Chinese tourists travelling in groups of an average 15 people.
Air Zimbabwe acting managing director Oscar Madombwe confirmed the availability of the two short-range planes in China. “The two MA60 planes are ready and we are still trying to secure money to pay for them. We will get another plane of the same model if we pay for the two,” he said.
“Government will be assisting with funds to purchase the planes and we hope to raise part of the money from the Beijing flight.”
The two M60s were shown to government and Air Zimbabwe representatives three weeks ago during the launch of the Beijing flight.
Air Zimbabwe, which had 15 planes at Independence, now has three that are operational with two Boeing 767s plying the Beijing and London routes.
Transport and Communications minister Chris Mushowe said during a visit by a Chinese delegation that Air Zimbabwe would be getting another long haul plane from the Asian country.
China has meanwhile placed orders for the latest Airbus planes from the European Airbus consortium for overseas routes.