GOVERNMENT is desperately trying to dissuade Ethiopian Airlines from pulling out of the Harare route, businessdigest can reveal.
Ethiopian Airlines has indicated that it will pull out of the Harare route on November 15. Th
e airline has since informed travel agents not to take bookings for dates beyond November 15.
British Airways (BA) announced plans to pull out of Zimbabwe two months ago citing serious viability problems. BA will make its last flight to Harare on Sunday.
Businessdigest understands that government has approached Air Zimbabwe officials to help persuade Ethiopian Airlines from leaving.
Sources say Air Zimbabwe officials have been meeting with Ethiopian Airlines’ management for the past four weeks.
“Hopes are high that they will persuade Ethiopian Airlines to remain in Zimbabwe before November 15. They might succeed or fail, I think it is too early to make such a public announcement before negotiations are complete,” a source close to the talks said this week.
The source said it is this new development that could have prompted Air Zimbabwe chief executive Peter Chikumba to tell the parliamentary committee on Transport and Communications that Ethiopian Airlines had reversed its earlier decision to pull out. Chikumba told the committee that Ethiopian Airlines was no longer leaving the country as the two airlines had reached an agreement. He however did not clarify what kind of an agreement the two companies had reached.
“Ethiopian Airlines is no longer leaving the country, as previously indicated. They will still be around,” Chikumba said.
Aviation sources however insist that contrary to Chikumba’s claim, the airline will still leave the country as scheduled.
“They said they had worked hard to improve the profitability of the route over the past few years but, although revenues have increased, passenger volumes have reduced while costs have spiralled,” the sources said.
The economic situation in Zimbabwe has contributed to a decline of passenger volumes over the past six years. International tourists, the major source of passengers for airlines, have shunned Zimbabwe because of security concerns. The situation has been worsened by the closure of companies and the collapse of the export sector.
A total of 18 international airlines have left the country since the economic crisis started 10 years ago.
They include Lufthansa, Qantas, Austrian Airlines, Swissair, Air India, Air France, and TAP Air Portugal. — Staff Writer.