AIR Zimbabwe last week flew one passenger from Johannesburg to Victoria on a 105-seater plane as the airline plunged to new lows.
BY NDAMU SANDU
The Boeing 737 plane has 12 business and 93 economy class seats.
The lone passenger chess grandmaster Nigel Short went on micro blogging site, Twitter, announcing to the world as the troubled airline continued breaking aviation records, but for the wrong reasons.
“I am not saying they are losing money, but I was the sole passenger on the Air Zimbabwe 737 from Jo’burg-Victoria Falls,” Short tweeted last week.
The message was re-tweeted 41 times meaning that it reached a wider audience, a bad advertisement for the airline whose turnaround strategy was premised on conquering the skies.
Short later told NewsDay that he had flown over 1 000 times in his life “but never in an empty plane”.
The new low by AirZim came as the troubled national carrier was working on a turnaround strategy that has seen it resuming old routes it used to fly and has maintained its presence in the skies.
AirZim confirmed in written responses that it had flown one passenger.
“Please be advised that the aircraft in question operated Victoria Falls-Bulawayo then Johannesburg and it became necessary for operational reasons to position the aircraft to Victoria Falls to operate a scheduled flight Victoria Falls-Harare. The flight had therefore been rescheduled and some of the booked passengers had opted for other earlier flights,” acting CEO Edmund Makona’s personal assistant Emma Benhura said.
AirZim resumed daily flights between Victoria Falls and Johannesburg in 2013 reportedly in response to the growing inbound and outbound traffic.
Aviation experts said last week’s occurrence was testimony that the airline was heading for collapse.
“You can’t expect different results when you are doing the same thing over and over again,” an expert said yesterday.
She said it was expected that the airline would get fewer passengers as it was not part of a global network.
“Jo’burg has connecting traffic. If you are not part of that network, no one feeds into you,” she said.
Some of the reputable networks are Star Alliance and Oneworld.
The experts added government as the sole shareholder was to blame for failing to give the airline direction by appointing a substantive chief executive officer.
Since the incarcerated former CEO Peter Chikumba left in 2011, the shareholder has failed to appoint a substantive head.
Innocent Mavhunga was appointed to hold forte, albeit in an acting capacity. He was removed from the post when it emerged that senior staffers had creamed off the airline through an insurance scam. The insurance scam claimed the scalps of former company secretary Grace Pfumbidzayi and Chikumba who are serving a seven year jail term each.
Makona has been acting CEO since 2013.
In September 2011, the airline again flew one passenger from Victoria Falls to Harare. In 2006, the troubled airline also flew one passenger from Dubai to Harare.
In 2012, a captain and a senior flight attendant were suspended after the airline flew in more passengers than the required 105 on the Boeing 737 aircraft.