AIR Zimbabwe is planning to splash millions of dollars on the official launch of its controversial Dubai route, which has seen the national airline suffer crippling losses.
Air Zimbabwe continues to make losses on the route that was imposed on the airline by the government before carrying out feasibility studies.
The official launch set for month-end is likely to be a major drain on Air Zimbabwe, which is currently in financial crisis. Plans for the launch are said to have reached an advanced stage and AirZim officials have already started talks with its partner, East African Airline, to help.
The airline is said to be making frantic efforts to enlist the support of the tourism sector to help finance the bash.
Players in the tourism and travel sector are however said to be sceptical of the plan saying the government initially sidelined them when the route was opened in May.
According to a tentative plan, Air Zimbabwe officials will hold a mini function in Entebbe, Uganda, and another in Dubai, both requiring scarce foreign currency. There will also be a big bash in Harare.
Air Zimbabwe is also likely to fly passengers to Dubai for free as part of the launch.
Air Zimbabwe spokesman David Mwenga confirmed the planned launch. He said there were also plans to officially launch the Kariba route, which is also reeling from the slowdown in the tourism industry.
“We are planning to officially launch the routes but this is subject to some factors,” Mwenga said. He said the carrier was trying to enlist the support of the various stakeholders in the travel and tourism sectors.
“These projects involve a number of players and thus we have set aside tentative dates, with the Kariba one set for this Saturday (tomorrow) and the Dubai route set for sometime at the end of the month,” he said.
The airline has shelved initial plans to fly to Bangkok, Thailand, after management were alarmed by losses on current Asian routes to Dubai and Beijing.
Experts say the Dubai route is likely to collapse because it was not properly marketed. They say that Air Zimbabwe is surviving on leftovers from established airlines plying the route like Kenya Airways and United Emirates Airlines.
Kenya and United Emirates Airlines have better services and are more reliable.
Air Zimbabwe also faces stiff competition from Air Malawi which is new on the route but is more organised. Air Malawi will soon introduce direct flights to the United Arab Emirates.