Air Zim future uncertain


The full-scale resumption of services by cash-strapped national airline Air Zimbabwe will not guarantee its future as the country will continue relying heavily on inter-continental and regional carriers, an independent aviation firm CAPA Centre for Aviation has observed.

The firm said the absence of reliable air links has potential of isolating the country from its trade partners and risks losing the country tourism revenue.

CAPA is a leading provider of independent aviation market intelligence, analysis and data services, covering worldwide developments.

Zimbabwes indigenous aviation industry has been uncertain at best, underscored by Air Zimbabwe grounding its entire fleet last month (December), CAPA said in a report released this week.

Even if the carrier resumes services, its future is not guaranteed. Instead Zimbabwe will have to rely on inter-continental and regional carriers.

Air Zimbabwe has stopped flying to some of its lucrative routes fearing creditors will seize its planes, as happened in London recently. The airline, which used to be one of the most successful in Africa, now operates a fleet of seven planes.

However, years of financial mismanagement and political interference have left the company swamped beneath a mountain of debt estimated at about $140 million.

However, CAPA said Emirates which will launch services beginning February will help maintain trade links and international relations Zimbabwe has left.

It said from regional African carriers, Air Namibia will resume service in April for the first time in 13 years and Zambezi Airlines plans to increase its offering, which will help supplement the countrys regional needs.

The aviation firm said Zimbabwes total seat capacity is expected to increase by May, but it depended on whether the national career will be able to return to normal operations of 10 000 seats per month.

While total capacity in Zimbabwe has dropped since mid-2011, it is expected to increase this year but by May-2012 will still be down 11% from a year earlier, said CAPA.

Seat capacity in Zimbabwe in May 2011 was 79 340. However, this figure took a dive in December as Air Zimbabwes operations became increasingly sporadic before stopping altogether. Zimbabwes total seat capacity is expected to increase by May to much healthier levels.

This assumes Air Zimbabwe will be able to return to normal operations of 10 000 seats per month.

CAPA said while total seat capacity in Zimbabwe fell from May 2011 to December, South African Airways and Air Namibia increased existing services and introduced new ones that helped make up for Air Zimbabwe dropping 5 000 seats over the six-month period.

Air Namibia is expected to add 148 seats a week with a four-times-weekly Windhoek-Harare service using ERJ-135 equipment.

It will be the carriers second destination in Zimbabwe, after Victoria Falls, and seventh in Africa. However, CAPA said the countrys aviation industry remained comparatively weak.

Zimbabwe is a small market with a capacity of approximately 22 000 seats per week according to Innovata.

In terms of African markets, Zimbabwes seat capacity per week is similar in size to Rwanda
(21 000) the Democratic Republic of the Congo (15 000) and the Republic of the Congo
(27 000) reads part of the report.