The Sunday Mail
Senior Business Reporter
THE delivery of the Embraer ERJ-145 last week, with two more Embraers and two Boeing 777-200ERs set to join the fleet this year, marks a major milestone in the revival of Air Zimbabwe, and crucially, it demonstrates the new administration’s desire to resuscitate critical State-Owned Enterprises.
Air Zimbabwe’s Embraer touched down at the Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport on Tuesday mid-morning, and gives the company an opportunity to fly right sized equipment on domestic and regional routes.
Its commissioning is expected in the next few days as the Embraer, which has Zimbabwe Airways colours and logos , has to get Air Zimbabwe livery in the next 21 days.
Air Zimbabwe corporate services manager Mr Tafadzwa Mazonde told The Sunday Mail Business last week that the coming of the Embraer dovetails with the institution’s strategic plan.
“The arrival of the Embraer is a key step and a major leap in terms of the journey towards the revival of Air Zimbabwe. In terms of the strategic plan that we have developed, one of the key pillars upon which the revival of Air Zimbabwe is anchored on is the procurement of right sized equipment,” said Mr Mazonde.
“What we are saying is that we need equipment which is appropriate for the route network that we are operating. The current fleet that we have, the Boeing 767s, they are designed to fly for a minimum of at least six hours going upwards but we are flying them on distances of 30 minutes (and one and half hours).
“That on its own has costs to it and therefore becomes an inappropriate piece of equipment in relation to that route network. So the delivery of the Embraer would then mean that gradually, we are getting within our fleet the properly sized equipment which will enable us to increase our revenue and at the same time reduce operational costs, which will in the long run translate to profitability for the airline.”
Mr Mazonde said two more Embraers are expected this year but could not be drawn into giving timelines.
He said procurement of aircraft, particularly pre-used ones, was difficult as one waits until the desired aircraft that matches the available resources, was on the market.
“But in total, we are saying that within this year, we are expecting to have two aircraft and maybe some of them (would be) the Boeing 777s and then in the course of the journey, once we have got approvals for the procurement of the other Boeings 737-700, they would come.
“So there are a number of processes that will precede the arrival of those aircraft and that on its own makes it difficult for me to give you an exact date,” said Mr Mazonde.
The B777s, which were acquired from Malaysia, have been paid for in full and await delivery any time soon.
These would be deployed on long distances such Harare-London, a lucrative route for the national airline as many travellers preferred it to other airlines since it would fly directly to Gatwick International Airport due to the country’s colonial ties with England.
Meanwhile, Air Zimbabwe has begun the process registering the Embraer.
Once the registration, repainting and all the mandatory procedures are concluded, the Embraer would be ushered into the skies.