OVER 60% of passenger airlines operating scheduled frequencies into Zimbabwean destinations have returned since Harare lifted travel restrictions in October in what the Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe (CAAZ) yesterday said was a “good and promising restart”.
BY SHAME MAKOSHORI
After rolling out blanket lockdowns to limit contagion following the COVID-19 outbreak in March, government allowed airlines, along with the forex spinning tourism industry to resume operations from October 1, as pressure mounted to save the fragile economy.
Some of the most immediate sectors to feel the heat were tourism, which lost about US$1 billion and horticulture, which saw shipping charges to international markets rocket from the first quarter.
This was after farmers switched from passenger to expensive cargo planes for exporting produce as the pandemic turned the world upside down, with governments battling to find a solution.
Passenger planes were grounded worldwide, but airlines kept a significant number of their cargo jetliners on the wings.
The Zimbabwe Tourism Authority says governments’ decisions to ground airlines pushed foreign tourist arrivals into Zimbabwe down by 90% this year, the biggest plunge in 40 years.
The sector had projected to scale up arrivals by 30%, riding on improved access after major airport revamps and aggressive forays into the world’s richest source markets.
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But yesterday, CAAZ said it looked forward to recovery, based on the industry’s performance so far.
“Despite the negative impact of COVID-19 pandemic to aviation, it is pleasing to note that Zimbabwe was off to a good and promising restart following the reopening of the skies and international flights, with 62% of scheduled passenger airlines having since resumed operations into the country for domestic, regional and international routes using three major airports,” CAAZ said in a statement to mark the International Civil Aviation Day (ICAD).
The authority said air travel into Zimbabwe would remain safe despite a frightening fresh wave of new infections in the past month.
“The Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe wishes to take this opportunity to assure, reassure stakeholders that measures and systems have been put in place to ensure the safety of the travelling public, in line with the Ministry of Health and Child Care and ICAO industry restart guidelines,” the statement said.
Air Tanzania and the global giant, Emirates are among passenger airlines that have resumed frequencies into Zimbabwe, in addition to domestic carriers, Air Zimbabwe and fastjet.
According to CAAZ, year 2020 is ICAO’s 76th anniversary whose theme is Global Aviation Development.
CAAZ said this theme reflected how innovation would be key to the way aviation addresses some of the industry’s most pressing priorities, today and tomorrow.
ICAO is a United Nations specialised agency which serves as a forum for co-operation in all areas of civil aviation among its 193 member States.
The day is recognised globally as the International Civil Aviation Day and is aimed at raising awareness on the importance of civil aviation as well as the role that ICAO plays in international air transport.
Aviation plays a dynamic and pivotal role in the global economy.
At its peak, the air transport sector supported 65,5 million jobs and contributes US$2,7 trillion (3,6%) to the global economy.
The industry directly employs over 10 million people with the responsibility to ensuring that 12 000 flights and 12 million passengers are carried safely to their destinations daily. l Follow Shame on Twitter @ShameMakoshori