Skepticism over Air Zimbabwe revival

An aviation think tank Centre for Aviation (CAPA) says the move by the government to set up a new national carrier is “not a cure-all” as it is not clear how debtors will view Air Zimbabwe (Pvt) Ltd.

Air Zimbabwe Holdings was a fortnight ago unbundled into Air Zimbabwe and National Handling Services, ending almost 32 years of continuous service.

CAPA is based in Sydney, Australia, and mainly offers market intelligence in aviation.

In its latest update, CAPA said structural changes within the government should be effected first to benefit the country and trickle down to the airline.
“The move is not a cure-all,” observed the aviation think-tank.

“Before the new carrier can be taken seriously, it needs not only independent management, but also structural changes within the government to benefit the country and trickle down to the airline.”

In December, the financially crippled Air Zimbabwe Holdings cancelled all its flights to Johannesburg and London over fears planes would be seized to cover outstanding debts owed for handling service charges.

CAPA said although the new carrier would start on a clean slate, the government would be straddled with Air Zimbabwe’s debt and without major assets to sell from the carrier.

“But Zimbabwe will try to reverse the carrier’s fortunes,” it added.

“The government will assume Air Zimbabwe’s $150 million of debt, which has risen from the $140 million reported in 2011, with the reckoning being the government will assume sole liability so the new Air Zimbabwe has a clean slate.

“Iraq had considered a similar move for national carrier Iraqi Airways, which has been pursued by Kuwait Airways over aircraft destroyed in the first Gulf War. It is not clear how debtors will view the new Air Zimbabwe” the aviation firm said.

It said prospects of the government cashing in on proposed leasing of the carrier’s ageing Boeing 767s were low.

Air Zimbabwe operated 1980s vintage 737s within Africa as well as 767-200s used on long-haul routes to London and Beijing via Kuala Lumpur to link Zimbabwe with China, an increasingly important trade partner.

All flights were cancelled in a move that allowed competitors to increase the number of flights in and out of Zimbabwe.

South African Airways has three flights daily while British Airways’ Comair has a daily flight on the Harare-Johannesburg route.

Emirates Airlines has already started operating five flights a week, linking Harare with Dubai and London.

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