Airlines scramble for Zim’s runways

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THE total number of airlines flying in and out of Zimbabwe are expected to reach 13 by November this year as more regional and international carriers scramble for Zimbabwe’s runways.

Report by Staff Writer

With the country’s national airline, Air Zimbabwe, struggling to recover from a myriad of operational problems, one of which is its US$150 million debt which continues to balloon, international airlines have seen an opportunity to grow their business in Zimbabwe.

According to statistics from the Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe (CAAZ), 11 airlines are currently landing at the Harare International Airport while an additional two are expected by November.

Air France-KLM is the latest expected to resume flights to Zimbabwe on October 29, after a 13-year absence. The airline will fly an Airbus A330-200 from Amsterdam direct to Harare three times a week.

From within the region, LAM Mozambique will introduce a Harare-Beira and Harare-Maputo flight on October 30.

The 11 airlines currently touching down at Harare International Airport include South African Airways, Kenya Airways, Air Botswana, Ethiopian Airways, BA Comair, Air Namibia, South African Airlink, TAAG, Emirates and Zambezi Airlines. Emirates introduced the Harare route in February while Zambezi Airlines resumed in May.

Fresh Air, the Zimbabwe registered airline which recently entered into a joint venture (JV) agreement with South African low cost carrier, 1time Airline, is set to take to the skies on November 2, with its first flight departing OR Tambo International Airport en route to Victoria Falls Airport, Zimbabwe. South African Airways leads on frequency, with almost 20 flights, Kenya 11, South African Airlink 11, Emirates 5 and Namibia 4 flights per week.

A number of airlines have been applying for operating licences to fly routes that Air Zimbabwe has long been failing to service.

Domestic tour operators have applied to service the local routes but there have been complaints the Zimbabwe Air Services Board has been giving permits for unprofitable routes, reserving lucrative routes such as Harare-Victoria Falls for the struggling national flag carrier.

Some of the companies which applied for permits to service both local and international routes include Beks Safari, Wilderness Safaris Zimbabwe and Chinese firm Anjin. If the airlines are licensed they would join Phoenix Air and Fresh Air.

In February, Sol Air was licensed to service the Harare– Kariba-Victoria Falls–Kariba- Harare route, the Victoria Falls –Buffalo Range-Victoria Falls route as well as the Harare-Beira, Harare-Maputo and Harare–Tete regional routes.

Sol Air financiers and advisors say the company faces collapse unless it secures lucrative domestic and regional routes, which are reserved for the struggling Air Zimbabwe.

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