By Staff Writer
AIRLINK’S codeshare deal with United States-based giant United Airlines is set to unlock fresh arrivals into Zimbabwe from the world’s biggest economy, tourism industry executives, said this week.
Under the deal, United Airlines’ passengers will have an opportunity to explore southern African destinations through Airlink, whose network has expanded into Harare, Bulawayo and Victoria Falls.
The codeshare deal was signed as United Airlines kicked off direct flights across several African capitals, including those previously unserved by American airlines.
“United Airlines continues to demonstrate our commitment to Africa, starting three brand new flights to the continent this year alone including new service to Accra, Ghana; Lagos, Nigeria and Johannesburg, South Africa,” Patrick Quayle, vice president of international network and alliances at the airline, said.
“And now through our codeshare agreement with Airlink – which is the most expansive partnership in southern Africa – customers will be able to easily explore more bucket-list destinations across the continent including easy connections to Zambia, Zimbabwe and more.”
Hospitality Association of Zimbabwe president Clive Chinwada told businessdigest this week that the agreement would drive tourist traffic from the US.
“Access and convenience are key determinants of decisions that travellers make when selecting destinations,” Chinwada said.
“We all know that Airlink has a significant footprint in Zimbabwe with flights into Harare, Bulawayo and Victoria Falls. As such, the agreement gives access to United Airlines passengers to connect seamlessly into Zimbabwe and the rest of the region where Airlink flies.
“It’s a welcome development as it makes it much easier for travellers from the US to add Zimbabwe onto their bucket list.”
Airlink’s connections into Zimbabwe were part of a southern African push by the airline, which has been making aggressive forays to reshape air travel in a region that has been paralysed by the collapse of national airlines in the past decade.
These obstacles have been amplified by Covid-19, which grounded air travel and sent staff home.
After being spun off South African Airways in October last year to operate independently, Airlink was quick to bridge the air travel gap, and the Harare-Cape Town service became a highlight of the push.
The route had not been connected since Royal Dutch Airlines briefly serviced it before pulling out in 2014.
But Ethiopian Airlines connected into Cape Town from East Africa through Victoria Falls from 2017, until flights were stopped following the outbreak of Covid-19. Airlink has reaffirmed its confidence in the Zimbabwean market by appointing a country manager to spearhead its operations.