Reimagining Zim’s skies

13 May, 2018 - 00:05 0 Views

The Sunday Mail

PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa has directed Transport and Infrastructure Development Minister Dr Joram Gumbo to explore avenues of co-operation with Qatar to revive Zimbabwe’s national flag carrier.

The President was in Qatar on a State visit and returned last Wednesday.

While that is happening, RwandAir is expanding its services by launching a new route to link Harare and Cape Town.

At the same time, Proflight will soon offer a direct link between Harare and Lusaka.

On his return from Qatar last week, President Mnangagwa told Dr Gumbo to engage his counterpart from that country with a view to buying or leasing aircraft.

Dr Gumbo said, “We are looking at having Air Zimbabwe revived. . . when he came back from Qatar, (President Mnangagwa) spoke about us engaging that country so that we can buy or lease aircraft and use them here.

“So I want you to look out for an improved Air Zimbabwe – or Zimbabwe Airways, which is our other national airline.”

Qatar Airways, which boasts of a fleet of 199 aircraft as at 2017, and flies into more than 150 business and leisure destinations across the globe.

Government has already acquired a small Embraer aircraft from the United States at a cost of $1,9 million.

Dr Gumbo said the plane was expected in Harare mid-next week, and it would ply regional routes.

Further, Government has bought four aircraft from Malaysia, paying $41 million towards the total bill of $70 million.

Given challenges at Air Zimbabwe, which has a debt of over $330 million, Government has created the Zimbabwe Leasing and Aviation Company to lease these four planes, the first of which – a Boeing 777 – has been delivered.

The Sunday Mail Business understands that RwandAir plans to launch a four times weekly Harare-Cape Town flight beginning May 16.

At the same time, South African Airlink (SA Airlink) which has been flying a 37-seat plane into Victoria Falls from Cape Town is expected to in July introduce an AVRO80 craft that carries 83 passengers.

It is also understood that Proflight Zambia plans to start servicing the Lusaka-Harare route from July 4.

Dr Gumbo said, “We want Zimbabwe to be an aviation hub in Sadc, which means lots of jobs for our people and an improvement in tourist arrivals.”

Chairperson of the Hospitality Association of Zimbabwe in Victoria Falls, Mr Farai Chimba, last week said: “SA Airlink have sent information that they are increasing capacity into Victoria Falls and it’s a positive thing.

“If you look at the investment put in the refurbishment of (Victoria Falls International) Airport, I think we need to see more airlines coming. The icing on the cake will be when we have a direct flight from Europe into Victoria Falls.”

Victoria Falls International Airport has undergone renovations worth $150 million, giving it a 4km runway capable of handling wide-body aircraft, and terminals with capacity to process 1,5 million passengers per annum.

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