Whilst a New Year always makes one look to the coming year with optimistic anticipation, one, inevitably, also looks back at things past with a degree of nostalgia.
All the bad news about Air Zimbabwe makes me very sad as I remember happy days when its forerunner, Central African Airways (CAA), though very small, really was the pride of the country, let alone central and southern Africa.
Once, as a very new air hostess with a special request, I was permitted to be in the cockpit to witness the landing procedure, and I well remember the feeling of pride at hearing the captain make his usual landing announcements, with the reply from the Tower “Welcome to Heathrow, Central African Airways, on time as usual, you are free to land!”
Our salaries then were second only to the then PanAm, now no longer, and it would have been unthinkable for them not to appear in our banks by the first of every month.
The same was the case for every employee of “Airways”.
Our Vikings and Dakotas were unpressurised and carried 28-32 passengers with only one hostess, and things were often very bumpy.
I was probably the only air hostess who never acquired her air legs so was often air sick when none of the passengers was!
We worked throughout the year, regardless of public holidays, and most of us were extremely proud of our jobs and the uniforms that went with them; ground staff and air crew were never allowed around the airports buildings without our caps, and our little aeroplanes were immaculately clean, with everything in them working efficiently.
Over the 42 years I lived in the UK I used to come out to Rhodesia/Zimbabwe annually, and throughout that time first CAA, through Air Rhodesia to Air Zimbabwe until my return to retire here in 1998, all my experiences were happy ones; departures were usually on time, excellent meals and faultless cabin service . . . What more does one require of an airline?
Things change with time, and in this case, sadly, for the worse.
We now live with inexcusably late departures, a couple of weeks ago my niece took off from Harare nearly five hours late because the plane carrying the President was late landing at Harare, and the back-up one was out of service, last-minute flight cancellations, and surly, unhelpful ground staff who seem to consider offering a service to be demeaning so perform reluctantly and inefficiently.
These last-minute flight cancellations to full-fare-paying passengers, frequent delays with no consideration to the inconveniences suffered by business and private passengers, a Head of State using the airline as a private preserve, and seriously inefficient management all contribute to the pathetic situation now confronting AirZim.
Which company in their senses would even consider taking over AirZim without being allowed to make radical changes to its structure and modus operandi?
Until and unless the government attitude to the national carrier changes, to allows it to be run as a bona fide commercial concern, with everyone using it paying for every seat and all cargo space, you can change the CEO as often as you like and nothing will change.
Will that ever happen in the short term? I don’t think so, because nobody at the top genuinely CARES about their country and people.
I don’t suppose you will be at all interested in my memories and opinions, but they might just give you food for thought.
Kind regards for 2011, and please continue keeping up the good work of informing us of the good, bad and the ugly happening in this wonderful country.
l Norma Keatley is in retirement and wrote the article above as a “soliloquy” . Below is a brief write-up of her life story as told by her:
I am able to just about manage e-mails on my laptop so anything relating to modern technology (digital cameras, pictures onto computers etc) is totally out with my patience and time levels!
I am 83, which in itself ought not to be an excuse, but I am pretty heavily involved with a few charities, Rotary in particular, and just seem to not have enough hours in a day.
My story is quite interesting from many angles . . . born and schooled in India (a real child of the Raj!); buried under the house for three hours in an earthquake aged 7; first Cotton Queen of Gatooma, now Kadoma (dubious distinction!) 1947/48 (?); represented CAA at the Queen of the Air Competition in Johannesburg about 1955/56; widowed at 23 with a small son (husband died of cerebral malaria in Gatooma (Kadoma) after a year in the jungles of Bihar and surviving tick typhus there); going on to London where I ended up group public relations executive for one of the largest construction companies in the UK and, for family reasons, decided to return to Zimbabwe to live out my remaining years.
I never regret for an instant.
I’m now in the Departure Lounge, happily awaiting the Final Call which never seems to come!
I love my life but am happy to “throw off this mortal coil” whenever Him upstairs decides it’s time for me to depart.