Air Zimbabwe suspended operations on 02-Jul-2012 following the grounding of its single Boeing 737 for maintenance checks, according to a Radio VOP report. Harare, Bulawayo and Victoria Falls services were resumed in May-2012 after their suspension in Feb-2012 due to debts and industrial action.
Air Zimbabwe suspends operations
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HNA/Hainan Airlines buys 6.2% of South Africa's Comair, accelerating China-Africa aviation links
China's expansive HNA Group, including flagship carrier Hainan Airlines, is continuing its international acquisition strategy with a USD13 million investment for a 6.2% stake in South Africa's Comair, which operates a full-service brand under a British Airways franchise and a low-cost carrier, Kulula. Uniquely to recent airline acquisitions, Comair is well-run and profitable. The purchase has been made for less than half the cost of a narrowbody jet, making it perhaps relatively inexpensive.
The synergies between the parties are unclear. Comair does not fly outside of southern Africa while HNA no longer flies to Africa – and if it did, it probably would not need an investment stake to work with Comair, which is generally open to partnerships. HNA is an investor in Ghana's Africa World Airlines, but there are no network links (yet) between that airline and Comair.
The investment comes after HNA and Air China are understood to have looked at investing in South African Airways, although this was too politically difficult. Africa is a new theme for Chinese aviation, with growing air routes, airport infrastructure projects and placement of Chinese aircraft to African airlines and governments.
China's airlines pivot towards Africa, after making inroads in Europe, North America and Australia
There are three characteristics of China's airlines flying long-haul: first is the role of government pushing and often subsidising routes, even on outbound-heavy leisure flights, such as to Europe. There are some elements of a herd mentality: witness China Southern expanding in North America after Air China. And then there is domination: China Southern in a few years became a common name in Australia while Air China will soon have three daily flights between Beijing and Los Angeles.
Chinese airlines have grown in Australia, North America and Europe. The missing continent in their growth story is Africa (South America will be only a small component).
Chinese airlines have come and gone in Africa, but 2015 should cement efforts to link Africa with China. China Southern will open a service to Nairobi, in addition to Air China's previously announced Johannesburg service. For the airlines, Africa will be a very different market from Australia, Europe and North America. It will not be as big or sustainable, but it will now start to grow after many quiet years, with strong overtones of trade flows.