FREEMAN MAKOPA South African passenger carrier Airlink has moved to take up slots left by British Airways Compair on Zimbabwean destinations, authorities said this week.
Compair filed for bankruptcy a few months ago after running into cash-flow problems.
In an interview with Business Digest, Airports Company of Zimbabwe (ACZ) chief executive officer (CEO) Tawanda Gusha said Airlink had already increased flights from South Africa into Harare.
“Airlink introduced daily flights on Monday August 15 for the Johannesburg to Harare (route) and this was previously serviced by Comair,” Gusha said.
“So the airline filled the slots after it (Compair) was placed under liquidation. This move is likely to put the tourism sector on a recovery path,” Gusha said.
He said the confidence that Airlink demonstrated in Zimbabwe would have positive spin offs to the tourism industry.
Airlink has emerged as one of the region’s leading airlines since being weaned off South African Airways in 2020.
From its South African bases Airlink connects to several cities and resorts in southern Africa, including Lubumbashi in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, Maseru in Lesotho, Sikhuphe in Eswatini, Bulawayo in Zimbabwe, Gaborone, Maun and Kasane in Botswana and Windhoek and Walvis Bay in Namibia.
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As part of its plan to encourage more airlines to fly into Zimbabwe, ACZ has several expansion projects of the country’s airports underway.
It says these projects will boost passenger handling capacity to 9,2 million annually, from 5,5 million currently on completion.
The extended handling capacity will give impetus to Zimbabwe’s efforts to rebuild its tourism industry, which suffered the hardest knocks when Covid-19 pandemic curbs paralysed global economies in 2020 and 2021.
Gusha told Business Digest, recently that an additional 3,5 million capacity would come on stream on completion of the expansion of the Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport (RG) in the coming months.
Government has injected about US$153 million to rebuild the facility, the third such undertaking following similar projects at Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo International Airport in Bulawayo and Victoria Falls International Airport.
Over 50% of the RG project has been completed, Gusha said, adding that ACZ planned to add a further 200 000 capacity through the expansion of Charles Prince Airport in Harare.
“We are adding 3,5 million from this RG airport,” Gusha said.
“Currently we are at about 5,5 million throughout the country. If we add 3,5 million, we will be at 9 million per annum. If we manage to find the partners to develop Charles Prince Airport, that will probably be another 200 000 or so capacity added to the 9 million.
This is the overall picture that we have in the country,” he said in the previous interview.
Before current projects got underway, Zimbabwe had expanded the Victoria Falls Airport at a cost of US$150 million in 2016, extending its capacity to 1,5 million passengers per year, from about 500 000.