STRUGGLING flag carrier Air Zimbabwe (AirZim) last week appealed to the European aviation safety agency after its application for accreditation to service international airlines flying into the southern African nation was rejected, it has been established.
By Bernard Mpofu
The airline applied to the European Aviation Safety Authority (Easa) seeking the nod to widen its revenue streams by creating a technical hub for the region.
Aviation sources said AirZim was turned down after Easa conducted an audit which showed that the airline had no capacity to maintain its own aircraft, therefore it did not qualify to maintain equipment from other airlines.
“During Edmund Makona’s tenure as acting CE, the airline resolved to widen its revenue by setting up a maintenance hub for the region and beyond. They were basically imitating the likes of South African Airways whose technical department is quite profitable,” a source familiar with the developments said.
“After its application was turned down, the CE, quality assurance manager Onias Moyo and the director in charge of technical services Joseph Makonese flew to Brussels to make an appeal on this decision.”
Questions sent to Air Zimbabwe’s public relations department were not responded to at the time of going to print.
Last month, the carrier lurched into a new crisis after all of its five aircraft were grounded due to technical problems, forcing the airline to hire a plane from neighbouring South Africa in a desperate effort to fulfil some of its scheduled flights.
AirZim, which at Independence in 1980 boasted a fleet of 18 planes, is technically insolvent and operating at less than a third of that capacity.
The airline is reeling under a debt in excess of US$330 million that has hampered efforts to engage strategic partners in a bid to retain and grow market share.
Foreign currency shortages that have seen the nostro accounts of local banks depleted have ground AirZim’s operations to a halt as the company struggles to procure crucial spare parts.
In 2011, Air Zimbabwe’s Boeing 737-200 was impounded in South Africa after the company failed to settle a US$500 000 debt owed to Bid Air Services for ground handling services.
Its largest aircraft, a Boeing 767-200, was seized by American General Supplies in London over a US$1,2 million debt in the same year. The plane was later released after the airline paid the debt, but Air Zimbabwe immediately stopped flying to London, one of its most lucrative routes.
The debt-ridden airline was kicked out of Iata’s flight reservation services in 2012 after failing to honour its obligations — which then stood at US$3,4 million — a development which resulted in limited business.
In 2013, cabinet approved a proposal by the AirZim board to raise US$15 million through 180-day commercial paper.