Air Namibia, which is expected to resume services to Zimbabwe in May, says the move is aimed at consolidating long-standing historical, social and cultural links in the Southern African Development Community (Sadc).
In emailed responses to Newsday, head of corporate communications, Paul Homateni Nakawa, said the return of the airline, which last flew to Zimbabwe 13 years ago, is also part of its five-year strategic business plan.
“In any industry, businesses do review their operations. Our operations came to halt 13 years ago due to operational restructuring, hence now this time, it is being revived as it’s in line with our five-year strategic business plan of the company, that was implemented in April 2011” said Nakawa.
Airline giant, Emirates, will this week start flying between Harare, Lusaka and Dubai five times a week.
Emirates currently serves 19 passenger and cargo destinations across the African continent.
Nakawa said Air Namibia would be flying four flights per week, between Windhoek and Harare “and we anticipate commencing sometime mid-May 2012” adding they were looking at using a 37 to a 100-seater aircraft.
However, Nakawa said as a member of Sadc their return is linked to “a social responsibility to connect the Sadc region”.
“Namibia as a member of (Sadc), shares in one of Sadc’s objectives which is to strengthen and consolidate the long-standing historical, social and cultural affinities and links among the people in the region,” said Nakawa.
“This is attained by Sadc member states affirmation to develop policies aimed at the elimination of progressive obstacles to free movement of capital and labour, goods and services, and the people of the region generally within member states.
“Therefore, this objective is in tune with this strategic move and we have a social responsibility to connect the Sadc region.”
Analysts believe the entry of Air Namibia and Emirates could spell trouble for the struggling national airline, Air Zimbabwe, which has been battling massive debt, strikes by pilots, old aircraft and reliability issues.
Several international airlines, including Egypt Air, Air France, KLM, Lufthansa and Quantas stopped flights to Zimbabwe because of dwindling passenger numbers as tourists were scared off by political violence and food shortages.
Regional airlines like Air Malawi, Kenyan Airways and South African Airways are still flying to Zimbabwe.
Recently, CAPA — Centre for Aviation — a leading provider of independent aviation market intelligence, said the grounding of Air Zimbabwe would mean the country will have to rely on intercontinental and regional carriers.