The Air Zimbabwe crisis deepened yesterday after Zambezi Airlines withdrew its aircraft after the limping national airline failed to pay $400 000 for leasing the plane.
Air Zimbabwe leased the aircraft after their fleet of Boeing 737s was condemned by the Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe early this year.
Insiders yesterday said the Zambezi Airlines aircraft flew to Lusaka after dropping passengers from Johannesburg at Harare International Airport around 9pm on Sunday.
Before the new twist of events, Zambezi Airlines would pick up passengers from Harare to Johannesburg, but that has since stopped.
“They flew back from South Africa on Sunday and proceeded to Lusaka. When they came, they had already fuelled the aircraft in South Africa,” said the source.
Air Zimbabwe’s chief executive Innocent Mavhunga yesterday confirmed the latest development saying: “Zambezi withdrew their aircraft, but did not hinder any operations.”
However, NewsDay understands a Boeing 767-200 which usually plies the Harare-Beijing route had to be brought in to service the Harare-Johannesburg route.
Zambezi Airlines threatened to withdraw its aircraft last week, but Mavhunga reportedly pleaded with them to delay the move.
The outstanding leasing fees were reportedly due on June 15, but the national airline failed to meet the deadline.
Air Zimbabwe is reeling under a heavy debt of more than $100 million which has seen most of its suppliers and creditors severing ties with the embattled airline.
Speculation is rife that workers there are mulling a strike owing to non-payment of salaries.