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Air Zimbabwe Boeing 767-200ER showing carrier’s eurowhite livery at Singapore Changi Airport. WIKIPEDIA PHOTO - ALDO BIDINI

Zimbabwe national carrier incurs U.S. $44.77 million dollar loss

HARARE (Xinhua) -- Zimbabwe’s struggling national carrier incurred a loss of 44.77 million U.S. dollars in 2013 as high fuel costs and a significantly reduced route network impacted on the airline’s viability, acting board chair Eric Harid said Monday.

He told a parliamentary committee that the airline has been making losses since 2004 due to operational challenges that include a ballooning debt, now standing at 302 million dollars, high fuel costs and an aged aircraft fleet.

"The reason why we are making losses is the short routes we are plying at the moment, the high cost of jet fuel and the aged fleet we are using," said Harid.

He said jet fuel in Zimbabwe costs 1.15 U.S. dollars per litre compared to South Africa’s 0.89 U.S. cents.

Out of the airline’s 10 aircraft, only three were serviceable while route network had shrunk to less than 10 from around 20 at peak in the late 1990s.

Air Zimbabwe used to fly to such destinations as Kenya, Zambia, Mauritius, Malawi, the DR Congo, London and Beijing but foreign routes are currently confined to South Africa as operational challenges hamper route network expansion.

Harid said the airline required a total of 368 million U.S. dollars for recapitalization, with 331 million alone required for acquisition of a modern fleet.

He said the airline was losing significant business due to its suspension from the International Air Transport Agency (IATA) in 2012 over a 2.1 million U.S. dollars debt.

"We don’t have capacity to get interconnecting passengers.

"We are losing passengers due to our absence on the IATA system," he said.

The acting board chair bemoaned low cargo business which was currently contributing only two percent to the airline’s revenue.

Although he did not give a figure, Harid said passenger business was the biggest contributor to the airline’s revenue, followed by charter business at 39 percent.

The airline’s acting chief executive Edmund Makona told the same committee that the biggest challenge facing the airline was its "safe but aged" aircraft fleet which consumed more in terms of fuel and maintenance costs.

"Air Zimbabwe is operating at an uncompetitive edge because of its aged fleet.

"The solution, therefore, is not necessarily funding but modernization of the fleet because then we will manage the issue of the biggest cost driver which is fuel," he said.

He also said the airline’s losses were being compounded by fares that were below break-even point as the airline tries to woo customers since resuming operations in 2013 after suspension the previous year.

AUGUST 2014:

Interview: Zimbabwe government says KLM pullout unfortunate

by Gretinah Machingura HARARE (Xinhua) -- The Zimbabwean government has described as unfortunate the pull out of KLM Royal Dutch Airline from Harare but indicated that it did not regard the exit as a loss since more airlines were set to fly into the country in the next few months.

In an interview with Xinhua, Transport Minister Obert Mpofu said Zimbabwe had signed more than 10 air service agreements with airlines in Africa, Europe and Asia that he hoped will boost the number of airlines flying into the country from the current 17.

KLM recently announced that it will cease flights to Harare in October this year, almost two years after resuming the flights after a decade long hiatus citing viability challenges.

The minister said a code share arrangement the airline had with Kenya Airways and the reduced number of Zimbabweans going into Europe could also have contributed to the non-viability of the route.

KLM said it would service the Amsterdam-Lusaka-Harare route using Kenya Airways.

"We are aware that they code share with Kenya Airways so they are going to be using Kenya Airways for this route.

"They were competing among themselves yet they are actually in partnership.

"They have cited viability challenges which could be all for reasons best known to them," the minister said.

The Zimbabwe Tourism Authority has also described the withdrawal of KLM as regrettable, saying it will greatly impact the tourism sector.

Minister Mpofu said not many people were travelling to Europe from Zimbabwe due to the sanctions, a factor he said could have contributed to the pullout.

"Our marketing people are saying that not many people are going to Europe due to stringent visa requirements hence the non viability of this airline on this route.

"But whey they are ready, we welcome them back," he said.

The minister said his ministry was discussing with the Chinese to ensure Air Zimbabwe resumes flights to Beijing and Shanghai soon.

"We are seriously negotiating with one serious big airline operator on the possibility of introducing flights to London and China," he said.

Air Zimbabwe suspended its Beijing flights at the height of economic challenges in 2008 while its London flights were suspended in 2012 due to a huge debt to service providers that had the previous year resulted in one of its aircraft being impounded by a creditor at Gatwick Airport.

At its peak in the 1990s, Air Zimbabwe flew to about 25 regional and international destinations while 45 airlines landed at the Harare International Airport.

Saddled with a 188 million U.S. dollars debt, the airline entirely stopped operations in 2012 but resumed them last year after getting a bail out from government.

It is currently servicing domestic and regional routes to neighboring South Africa.

The airline is however, yet to fully recover and expand its regional and international route network.

On Tuesday, the country welcomed an inaugural direct flight between Dar es Salaam and Harare by Tanzania’s low cost airline, Fastjet.

The airline will offer some of the cheapest fares in Africa’s aviation industry as fares start from as little as 50 U.S. dollars (excluding airport and government taxes) for a one-way trip between the two cities.

The Harare route becomes Fastjet’s third international route in Africa where it is already serving the Johannesburg and Lusaka routes from its international base in the Tanzanian capital.

Ed Winter, the chief executive and chairman of Fastjet said the route was long overdue for the completely unserved route, and expressed optimism about the success of the route.

He said due to overwhelming demand, the airline has had to increase its initial flights from the planned two to three times per week.

The airline will now fly on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

"These flights will I am sure stimulate both business and tourism.

"Clearly, as demand grows, we will satisfy that demand by adding more flights and I see no reason why this route could not reach a daily frequency quickly," he said.

JUNE 2014:

Tanzania Fastjet to launch budget flights to Zimbabwe

VICTORIA FALLS, Zimbabwe (Xinhua) -- Tanzania’s low- cost airline Fastjet announced Monday plans to launch flights between Tanzanian capital of Dar es Salaam and Zimbabwean capital of Harare in August this year, costing merely 50 U.S. dollars all inclusive one way.

The airline’s chief commercial officer Richard Bodin told Xinhua at the ongoing ninth Routes Africa meeting that there was great potential for the success of the route because of strong commercial ties between the two countries.

"We commence operations on the first of August and will fly twice a week to Dar es Salaam," Bodin said, adding that "we expect the route to grow very rapidly."

Bodin said a one-way trip from Harare to Dar es Salaam will cost 50 U.S. dollars plus taxes, a charge he said was designed at stimulating and growing the new market.

Fastjet will join several airlines that have introduced flights to Zimbabwe over the last two years including Emirates, KLM Royal Dutch Airline, Air Namibia, EgyptAir and LAM of Mozambique.

MAY 2014:

Zimbabwe eyes two more foreign airlines

HARARE (Xinhua) -- Zimbabwe is hoping to attract two more airlines by the end of this year as it pushes with efforts to rejuvenate the tourism industry, an aviation official have said.

Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe (CAAZ) general manager David Chawota told Xinhua that negotiations were underway for RwandAir and Fastjet airlines from Rwanda and Tanzania respectively to fly into the southern African country by year-end.

"That is what is in our plans and judging by the level of negotiations we have done so far," Chawota said.

The coming of the two airlines will bring to 16 the number of foreign airlines flying into the country, but still much lower than the 34 airlines that once served the country at peak in 1997.

Chawota this week told local media that their target was to bring 40 foreign airlines into Zimbabwe by the end of 2018.

Zimbabwe has been on a drive in recent years to lure back old and new airlines into country after a decade of economic meltdown that ended in 2008 which saw many airlines shunning the route due to depressed business.

Since 2009, the country has welcomed back airlines such as Air Namibia, EgyptAir, LAM Mozambique Airlines and KLM Royal Dutch Airline of Netherlands.

Air Malawi and Emirates have also started flying into Zimbabwe.

The drive to lure the airlines also comes at a time when the government has signed bilateral air service agreements with about seven countries that include Qatar ad Turkey to facilitate introduction of flights into Zimbabwe by these countries.

Tourism officials contend that the coming of many airlines into the country would boost the tourism sector which is trying to get back to its peak performance in 1999 when 2.2 million visitors came to the country against 1.8 million that came in 2013 generating 850 million U.S dollars.


Malawian airline resumes Zimbabwe flights after nine-year break

HARARE (Xinhua) -- The Malawian carrier has resumed flights into Zimbabwe after a nine year break in a development that is set to increase connectivity in southern Africa, an official has confirmed.

Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe (CAAZ) chief executive David Chawota confirmed to Xinhua on Friday that Malawi Airlines resumed flights this week.

"It is a welcome development, and members of the public have really been looking forward to its return," Chawota said.

There has been no direct air link between Malawi and Zimbabwe and passengers usually commute from South Africa.

Malawi Airlines, a joint-venture between the Malawian government and the Ethiopian Airlines, is the latest to resume flights into Zimbabwe following similar moves by Air Namibia and KLM Royal Dutch Airlines over the past few years.

Seven other countries also recently signed bilateral air service agreements with Zimbabwe for them to either resume or introduce flights into the southern African country whose airline is teetering on the brink of collapse due to serious financial and operational problems.

Without divulging more information, Chawota said the aviation body is working with a number of airlines which have expressed keen interest in flying into Zimbabwe.

Permanent secretary in the Ministry of Transport Munesu Munodawafa told Xinhua recently that Britain, Luxembourg, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Republic of Congo, India and Malawi are among countries that signed bilateral air services agreements with Zimbabwe in December 2013.

The eight countries also signed a separate pact with Zimbabwe that allows them to start flights into Zimbabwe prior to conclusion of their applications by the Zimbabwean government.

The Malawian carrier would fly from Malawi’s capital Lilongwe via second largest city Blantyre to Harare three times a week.

The resumption of the Malawian carrier came as Zimbabwe’s state- owned carrier faces financial and mechanical challenges.

Local media reported this week that two of Air Zimbabwe’s leased A320 aircraft have been grounded in South Africa for months.

The airline’s spokesperson Shingai Taruvinga however refuted the claim, saying that the two aircraft had gone for their scheduled service.

"We do not have the expertise to service the Airbuses here and that is why we send them to South Africa. One of the aircraft should be coming out and go back in service soon," Taruvinga said.

The troubled Air Zimbabwe is operating with about five aircraft, some of them leased, to service domestic and regional routes. Deeply indebted, it has been failing for over a year now to re- introduce flights to Beijing and London that is regarded as one of the airline’s cash cow route.


Jostle for political positions stokes more uncertainty in Zimbabwe


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