VICTORIA FALLS — Air Zimbabwe pilots yesterday (Friday 29 July) downed tools again demanding their outstanding salaries and allowances.
Insiders said the pilots had not been paid their outstanding salaries since April this year and demanded that they management honour their promise. The pilots allege that management was lying that they had been fully paid.
Early this month the national airline’s board chairman Jonathan Kadzura and acting chief executive officer Innocent Mavhunga said the pilot’s issue had been resolved after they managed to secure money to pay all the workers.
Weighted down by years of mismanagement, poor industrial relations and bureaucratic bungling, a new substantive Air Zimbabwe CEO will have a daunting task of improving operations at the national airline.
The airline is heavily indebted and morale among the staff is at its lowest ebb. Frequent flight delays and cancellations, loss of luggage, overbooking and shoddy passenger treatment are regular complaints from travelers.
Aviation experts this week said the problems were symptomatic of bigger issues, which include mismanagement, poor industrial relations resulting in low productivity and disparity between revenue and expenditure.
“When such things are not in order, human beings tend to display passive resistance. How do you expect someone who has not been paid to smile or offer you a pleasant service?” a senior manager at the airline asked.
“An airline is usually strong at home, but in Zimbabwe a lot of people cannot afford to fly, necessitating a deliberate strategy to grow the market outside of the country’s borders. However, since mid-2007 the contrary happened.
Management pulled out of a lot of both profitable and potentially profitable routes such as Malawi, Dar-es-Salaam, Dubai and Nairobi.”
The airline also briefly ran domestic operations in the Democratic Republic of Congo in partnership with Ligne Aérienne Congolaises, the DRC national airline.
The DRC operation was described as “costly but highly profitable”, providing the airline with enough liquidity to service its debts and commitments as well as pay its staff.
The pullout was not supported by a strategy to retain market share enough to offset both operating costs and fixed costs.
This resulted in extreme erosion of the revenue base while the cost-base increased along with the attendant spiraling debts.