By Yvonne Mkondani
THE National flag carrier Air Zimbabwe says its prospects of promoting tourism and trade are hinged on the expansion of flight routes.
In a statement, the airline described 2020 as a tough and tumultuous year due to the adverse impact of Covid-19.
“We look back at 2020, a tough and tumultuous year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, with great appreciation and gratitude for all the support, feedback and engagements we have had with you our valued customers, said Air Zimbabwe Acting Chief Executive Officer Mr Joseph Makonese.
Turning to the year 2021 Mr Makonese expressed confidence that the national flag carrier was poised for growth.
“Our focus in 2021 is fleet augmentation, route expansion and service delivery,” he added.
The parastatal has had its fair share of bad days having been declared technically insolvent and burdened with a US$341 million debt overhang, 92 percent of which was owed to local creditors.
In the past, the airline as part of its fleet augmentation programme, has acquired aircraft such as the 282-seater long-range Boeing 777-200ER and an Embraer ERJ145 regional aircraft.
“While there have been delays in the deployment into service of the ERJ145, we expect the aircraft to be serviceable by the end of January 2021. We are in the process of acquiring a second ERJ145 for deployment into service in the first half of 2021,” said Mr Makonese.
The deployment of the aircraft would allow Air Zimbabwe to initially fly Harare to Johannesburg twice daily and the Johannesburg to Bulawayo route four times per week.
“Tourists and traders to Dar es Salaam will also have the convenience to connect between Harare-Bulawayo-Victoria Falls-Dar es Salaam with a return on the same day three times weekly. Domestic flights will also be increased to promote the tourism industry through our Flame Lily packages,” he said.
Mr Makonese said the regional expansion is poised with the proposed addition of Lusaka, Lubumbashi and Kinshasa as destinations as the year progresses.
Regardless of the fact that scheduled operations were suspended globally from the end of the first quarter in 2020 due to the Covid-19 travel restrictions, Mr Makonese said Air Zimbabwe was able to operate cargo and repatriation flights.