Travellers shun Air Zimbabwe

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Air Zimbabwe’s woes continue to mount amid revelations that one of its aircraft, a Boeing 737-200, has been grounded because it has outlived its 20-year lifespan.

It has also emerged that a number of customers including Members of Parliament and politicians, are shunning the airline.

Leader of the pilots’ delegation that appeared before the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Transport and Infrastructure Development, Charles Chikosi, told the committee this week that due to the aging fleet and poor marketing strategies, passengers preferred to fly other airlines.

“We are the only airline that flies non-stop between Harare and London, but many people fly via Ethiopia or get flights that go via Johannesburg and make a stopover of about four hours to avoid using Air Zimbabwe,” Chikosi said.

“A lot of MPs and high-ranking officials in this country do not want to fly Air Zimbabwe because other competitors have sleeper seats which we do not have. They also have entertainment facilities like videos which we do not have,” he said.

Chikosi said Boeing was a better product than Airbus as evidenced by the great number of losses incurred by Airbus compared to Boeing — the Air Zimbabwe Boeing fleet was now archaic and pilots recommended the purchase of new-generation Boeing planes to make Air Zimbabwe more competitive.

He said the marketing strategies at Air Zimbabwe were so poor that foreign airlines were taking away the transportation of cargo and horticulture produce from Zimbabwe, while Air Zimbabwe failed to take advantage of lucrative business opportunities.

Sources at Air Zimbabwe disclosed that they had been warned that the Boeing 737-200 should not fly as it had been blacklisted.

The national airline has three Boeing 737-200s that were bought in 1987, that have been plying long-haul routes for more than 23 years.

Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe (CAAZ) general manager David Chaota said Air Zimbabwe had been given advice that the Boeing 737–200 needed replacement.

“We only provide guidance material as the civil aviation authorities stipulate that if one of the planes is worn out then the plane needs attention,” said Chaota.

CAAZ is responsible for managing the airport and airspace and is also a regulatory body for the aviation industry in Zimbabwe.

It also provides safety oversight and continuous surveillance.

Air Zimbabwe board chairperson Jonathan Kadzura on Tuesday confirmed that a Boeing 737-200 had been grounded.

“The aircraft is grounded as it is undergoing major service,” said Kadzura.