End of the line for Air Zimbabwe?

By Nqobile Charles Bhebhe

Posted on June 3, 2011 12:28

Rising debt of over $108m, industrial action and an aged fleet have grounded Zimbabwe’s only national carrier-Air Zimbabwe and left passengers stranded for weeks.

“There is a compelling need for government to bail us out. Its collapse would negatively affect national pride which is at stake,” said Mavhunga.?According to Mavhunga, as of Thursday 2 June, neither the treasury nor international funders had come forward to rescue the airline, which needs at least $80m to offset urgent debts.??

Air Zimbabwe’s long list of foreign creditors include the Agency for Air Navigation Safety in Africa and Madagascar (ASECNA), China’s National Aero-Technology Import and Export Corporation (CATIC), Aero Industrial Sales, among others.

Founded 47 years ago, the airline has suffered several strikes this year with pilots, engineers and other workers refusing to work, demanding outstanding allowances. The airline’s troubles have piled up due to mismanagement and an aging fleet.

Its three Boeing 767 planes, which have reached a certain limit of 34,000 cycles or trips, and two MI60 from China have been grounded. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has also suspended Air Zimbabwe over a $280,000 debt.

With at least 50 per cent of Air Zimbabwe customers booking through travel agents, an order from IATA demanding international travel agents to refund foreign travellers with bookings placed with Air Zimbabwe has dealt the company another blow.?

Foreign airlines have been major beneficiaries of the crisis, increasing their footprint on the routes formerly dominated by the national carrier.??

Major beneficiaries of the change in fortunes at the national airliner were Kenya Airways, up 7.5 per cent from 6. 1 per cent, Ethiopian Airways from 4 per cent to 6.8 per cent. There were marginal increases in market share for Air Malawi from 0.9 per cent to 1 per cent and Air Botswana from 0.8 percent to 1.2 per cent.

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