PROBLEMS at Air Zimbabwe continue to mount after revelations that the airline managed to fly only three passengers on its Bangkok-Dubai route on Friday, September 2.
On the same day the airline cancelled its flights to Bangkok from Beijing after it had been notified that there were no passengers from the Chinese capital to Thailand.
The national airline flew the three passengers in Bangkok to Dubai on its leased 245-seater plane. On arrival in Dubai the airline managed to pick up 80 passengers from the Emirate city for the trip to Harare.
Bangkok was recently added to the airline’s Asian destinations after earlier efforts to launch the route failed due to lack of passengers to the Thai capital.
The Independent heard that the three passengers on the flight from Bangkok were over-weight on their luggage allowance and Air Zimbabwe wanted them to pay extra for the surplus.
“That was not all,” said one of the passengers on the flight. “We thought because there were only three of us on the plane, there would be free seating in business. But we were told to go to the economy class.”
After protesting, the passengers were eventually allowed to take business class seats.
The airline’s problems have been worsened by its leasing of a Boeing 767-200 from PB Air of Thailand at a total cost in excess of US$2 million for the duration of the three-month deal.
Air Zimbabwe is also said to have committed itself to servicing the Bangkok route during negotiations for the plane with the Thailand company in return for the company charging below market rates for the lease of the plane.
Air Zimbabwe spokesperson David Mwenga could not comment on the issue saying he did not have the figures and information on the flight.
“I am sorry I cannot comment without having the information on the date in question,” Mwenga said.
The airline is currently being charged US$3 200 per flight hour compared to the Iata rate of US$8 000 for planes in the 245-seater range.
The airline will also be subjected to insurance costs which are pegged in US dollars over the duration of the lease arrangement.
Currently Air Zimbabwe is charging $25 million for a return ticket to Beijing, $12 million for a return ticket to Dubai while Bangkok travellers will be expected to fork out $28,4 million for a return ticket.