After leasing two A320 Airbus planes at a cost of US$500 000 a month, Air Zimbabwe is considering increasing frequencies in the aviation golden triangle of Harare, Victoria Falls and Johannesburg in preparation for the world tourism indaba in August.
Air Zimbabwe (AirZim) interim board chairman Munesu Munodawafa said this week this would greatly enhance the airline’s market share during the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) general assembly in Victoria Falls.
Munodawafa, who is also the Transport, Communication and Infrastructure Development permanent secretary, told the parliamentary Transport and Communication portfolio committee that the two planes would double AirZim’s flying fleet to four, boosting the airline’s capacity to service the domestic and regional markets.
AirZim was grounded for close to a year over its ballooning debt, which now tops US$188 million.
“The availability of the Airbuses, particularly at the start of the new season in April, would improve our frequencies in the golden triangle,” Munodawafa said.
“This would enable us to adequately service delegates to UNWTO who fly in through other airlines.”
Munodawafa said despite the US$188 million debt, the country was still better placed in the region to benefit from the expansion of the aviation industry.
“Zimbabwe’s geographical position makes it the second natural hub for aviation in the region. We will therefore use AirZim as a feeder to the big airlines plying into Zimbabwe like Emirates and (Dutch airline) KLM, meaning we will have to synchronise our timetables.” Foreign airlines, with the exception of South African Airways, are not licenced to fly to Victoria Falls. This creates an opportunity for AirZim to benefit. Government is yet to take over the airline’s crippling debt because a number of procedural matters must be tackled first.
“Government is still to table in parliament for consideration the Debt Assumption Bill for it to take over AirZim’s debts,” Munodawafa said.
AirZim acting group chief executive officer Innocent Mavhunga said the airline needed an urgent US$52 million capital injection from government for it to operate at an optimum level.
Mavhunga acknowledged that the current AirZim business model was not viable since they were using unsuitable planes on the domestic and regional routes.
“We need smaller planes for the domestic and regional routes with a configuration of 50 to 70 seats for the business to become viable,” Mavhunga said.