Wednesday, 13 March 2019

ZIMBABWE: Troubled Air Zimbabwe

The national airline Air Zimbabwe has been operating one aircraft the B767-200ER and the plane is suffering from an engine technical failure it has emerged.

In a statement issued on Thursday, Air Zimbabwe said, The aircraft had to undergo an engine change on Sunday 3 March.

The engine process could however not be completed within the projected time due to unforeseen circumstances.

This has resulted in serious disruptions as most flights had to be rescheduled.

There are reports that Air Zimbabwe left its passengers stranded in Johannesburg on Tuesday night by flying out four hours early.

Air Zimbabwe further said the alternative arrangement is being made for any passengers that are not reachable on the contact details submitted to the Airline at the point of ticketing.

Air Zimbabwe (Pvt) Ltd operating as Air Zimbabwe is the national carrier of Zimbabwe, headquartered on the property of Harare International Airport, in Harare.

From its hub at Harare International Airport, the carrier used to operate a network within southern Africa that also included Asia and London-Gatwick.

Following financial difficulties, Air Zimbabwe ceased operations in late February 2012. Serving a reduced domestic network, the carrier resumed operations for a short period between May and early July 2012, when flights were again discontinued.

Some flights were restarted on a discontinuous basis in November that year. The airline resumed operating some domestic routes as well as the regional service to Johannesburg on a daily basis in April 2013.

The company was a member of the International Air Transport Association, and of the African Airlines Association since 1981.

In February 2004, it was revealed that the company had been temporarily suspended by the IATA over unpaid debts.

In late October 2006, the prices of Air Zimbabwe tickets increased up to 500%, partly due to the inflation in the country rising to over 1,000% at that time the Zimbabwean Central Bank stated that it could not continue supporting Air Zimbabwe and other money-losing state companies—and partly because the airline was in need of foreign currency to pay for fuel, spare parts, and catering.

A foreign exchange crisis in the country led to the cancellation of the carrier's operations in late 2005, following the lack of hard currency to pay for the fuel. In 2006, it was disclosed that passenger numbers had fallen from 1 million in 1999 to 23,000 in 2005.

In May 2011, the airline was suspended from IATA's international financial and booking system over unpaid booking fees. It was announced in early November 2011 that the government would absorb a US$140 million debt in order to make the company more attractive to foreign investors.

Already in December 2011, the carrier struggled to provide its regional and overseas services amid aircraft impoundments over unpaid debts.

In January 2012, the airline came under judicial management. Following a failed revival attempt, in which the pilots refused to resume domestic services over US$35 million in unpaid salaries and allowances, it was announced on 24 February 2012 that Air Zimbabwe would be grounded indefinitely.

In March of the same year, the government of Zimbabwe established Air Zimbabwe Private Limited as the new owner of the carrier after disbanding the airline's former parastatal owner Air Zimbabwe Holdings and absorbing a US$150 million debt.

The airline resumed flying on a continuous basis in early May 2012, yet using a single aircraft and serving only three domestic destinations Bulawayo, Harare and Victoria Falls and only for a short period of time until the grounding of the aircraft on 2 July 2012.

The airline was reactivated in late November 2012, with a reduced flight scheme serving the Harare–Johannesburg route.

Reports then indicated the carrier resumed domestic operations connecting Bulawayo, Harare and Victoria Falls, as well as the regional route to Johannesburg, on a daily basis in April 2013, ahead of the 2013 Zimbabwe International Trade Fair.

As of July 2017, Air Zimbabwe's debts were estimated to be US$330 million.

Approximately 600 employees out of more than 1,000 had been laid off by late May 2013 as part of cost-cutting measures aimed at recapitalising the airline.

The Zimbabwe Tourism Authority revealed in June 2013 that the airline's market share suffered a steep decrease in the year ending 31 December 2012, with a 0.8% participation in this period down from 27% in the same period of 2009.

On 8 June 2018, it was reported that Air Zimbabwe had debts of more than $300 million and could no longer fly to most destinations due to threats by debtors to impound its aircraft.

With mounting debt and only three of its aircraft operational, the airline was put under administration on October 6, 2018.

In May 2017 Air Zimbabwe was added to the list of air carriers banned in the European Union as a result of not meeting EU safety standards.

Since March 2012 the airline has been operated through Air Zimbabwe Private Limited, which is wholly owned by the Zimbabwe Government, although there have long been plans to privatise the airline in some degree.

Chipo Dyanda is the airline's chairwoman, as of July 2017.

In October 2016, Simba Chikore was appointed to be the Chief Operating Officer (COO), amid much controversy and accusations of nepotism as he is also the son-in-law to then Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe. Simba resigned from Air Zimababwe in November 2017.

Air Zimbabwe has been loss-making for many years, with irregular services. Although the airline is government owned, full annual reports have not been published; audited accounts were last presented in 2008.

The Harare–Beijing service was launched in November 2004, following an increase of the Chinese–Zimbabwean economic ties. Likewise, the carrier added Kuala Lumpur to its network in 2009.

A capacity boost was disclosed to occur on the Harare–London-Gatwick route effective 1 April 2011. The Harare–London route that was once served by both British Airways and Air Zimbabwe had become one of the most lucrative routes for Air Zimbabwe since the British carrier discontinued the service in 2007.

It was revealed in February 2011 that the airline temporarily suspended its flights to Johannesburg over likely impoundments of its planes by creditors due to unpaid debts.

Regional and domestic services were suspended for a short period in May 2011, following both the grounding of its Boeing 737-200 fleet by the Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe (CAAZ) over maintenance concerns, and the impoundment of a leased aircraft from Zambezi Airlines over a US$460,000 unpaid debt.

Operations resumed in late May 2011, following an agreement between the two airlines, yet the aircraft was repossessed by the owner in late June 2011.

In mid-June 2011, flights to London and South Africa were temporarily suspended because of a due debt with fuel suppliers. Owing both to the grounding of the 737-200 fleet and to fuel shortages in the country, domestic services were suspended and regional flights were operated on an irregular basis.

The airline started regularising medium- and short-haul operations in July 2011, as it got clearance from the CAAZ to operate one of its three grounded 737-200.

Operations were discontinued again in late July 2011, this time due to a pilots' strike, resuming in mid-September after a 50-day-long strike.

Once again, overseas and domestic flights were temporarily cancelled in early November 2011, this time owing to an unpaid debt with fuel providers.

Overseas routes resumed on 11 November 2011. However, flights to the United Kingdom and South Africa were suspended in January 2012 over likely impoundments of the airline's aircraft for outstanding debts.

According to the Aviation Safety Network, the company has not had a fatal accident since Air Rhodesia was renamed Air Zimbabwe in 1980.

July 1984: A Vickers 756D Viscount, registration Z-YNI, was damaged beyond repair in an incident on the grounds of Harare International Airport. It was withdrawn from service and transferred to the airport fire department for use as a training aid.

In June 1999 the Chicago Tribune published a story, later withdrawn, in which the reporter Gaby Plattner claimed she had flown from Kariba to Hwange on an Air Zimbabwe service, and that the flight departed without a co-pilot, and during the flight the pilot was locked out of the cockpit, and had to use an axe to chop down the door.

The newspaper later stated that this story was untrue. The carrier then sued the Chicago Tribune and also CNN, after it ran a story claiming it was the most dangerous airline in the world.


Tourism Observer