BRITISH Airways (BA)’s decision to pull out of the Harare route will cost Zimbabwe US$2 080 000 worth of revenue per year in handling and landing fe
es. BA announced its decision last week to pull out after 75 years of service, citing viability problems.
The move is a financial blow to National Handling Services (NHS), which handles the luggage of all airlines that land in Zimbabwe.
It will also hit the Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe (CAAZ) which relies on landing and parking charges.
Information to hand shows that NHS and CAAZ were making a combined US$40 000 from BA every week, a figure which translates to US$2 080 000 a year.
The charges include passenger services, parking, entry and exit charges and Maximum All up Weight (MAUW).
A total of 18 international airlines have left the country since the economic crisis started 10 years ago.
The international airlines that have left Zimbabwe include Lufthansa, Qantas, Austrian Airlines, Swissair, Air India, Air France and TAP Air Portugal.
African airlines that are no longer coming to Harare include Egyptair, Air Mauritius, Linhas Aereas de Mocambique, Air Namibia, Royal Swazi Airlines and Air Seychelles. Air Tanzania, Ghana Airways, Air Uganda, and Air Cameroon have also pulled out of the route.
Although BA said the route was making losses, aviation sources said the decision was reached after the airline clashed with the government.
Government refused to allow the airline to remit its earnings to the UK. The deteriorating diplomatic relations between Zimbabwe and Britain could have also contributed to BA’s decision, the sources said.
BA’s area commercial manager for South East and West Africa, Steven Harrison, denied the airline pulled out because of a dispute over foreign currency remittances. He said BA had pulled out because of “commercial” reasons.
“The route has been making a considerable loss over the past few years. We operate in a highly competitive global market and cannot afford to sustain these losses on the Harare route any longer,” Harrison said. Aviation sources however maintained that the Harare-London route had been profitable for BA.
“We have worked hard to try to improve the profitability of the route over the past few years but, although revenues have increased, our passenger volumes have reduced and our costs have spiralled. The economic situation in Zimbabwe has contributed to a decline in market demand,” said Harrison.
BA first threatened to pull out of Zimbabwe in 2000 when it temporarily cut its service to Harare relocating to Lusaka following political clashes in the run up to the June parliamentary election.
The following year the then BA general manager, Peter Best, announced that they were contemplating pulling out of Zimbabwe following the government’s refusal to allow the airline to remit its earnings to the UK.
BA will however continue to have a presence in Harare through its franchise partner, Comair, which operates a daily service between Harare and Johannesburg, and between Victoria Falls and Johannesburg.
Customers that had made bookings for flights after October 28 will be rebooked to alternative flights or given refunds.