Zimbabwe is a land-locked country located in southern Africa. Airlines currently operating services to Zimbabwe include Kenya Airways, Air Malawi, Botswana Air, South African Airways, Comair, and government-owned national carrier Air Zimbabwe has resumed operations after a break. The country has two international airports - Bulawayo Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo International Airport and Harare International Airport. The Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe (CAAZ) is the regulator of the country’s civil aviation industry, managing infrastructure including the major airports.
Airports in Zimbabwe
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Africa’s unenviable record of government interference in the continent’s aviation system is demonstrated by no less than nine carriers currently surviving at the behest of their respective governments through a variety of financial support mechanisms collectively worth about USD2.5 billion.
In most cases this support serves only to distort any prospect of a level playing field, preventing privately owned carriers from competing effectively. Nigeria is even taking this a stage further as state support of private carriers is being undermined by a desire to relaunch a government owned national flag carrier. In other cases, such as Uganda, new state-owned airlines are planned to compete with successful privately owned operators in markets that often lack sufficient demand to support them both. Whatever the motives, and many of them are questionable at best, the outcome is sadly predictable.
In most cases Africa’s national carriers suffer at the hands of government mismanagement and interference, key among them is the continent’s largest airline, South African Airways (SAA) which is the subject of the biggest turnaround plan currently under way. This could offer a vital precedent if it succeeds - and if it doesn't.
Air Zimbabwe is about to move into the next phase of its rebuilding programme with the launch of three more regional services and its first long-haul service to London since the carrier was grounded under a mountain of debt in Jan-2012.
The Zimbabwe flag carrier plans to commence regional services from its Harare hub to Lusaka, Zambia and Lilongwe, Malawi, as well as to Durban, South Africa in Oct-2013. This will be followed by the resumption of service to London Gatwick in Nov-2013 with refurbished 767-200s.
Air Zimbabwe relaunched in Nov-2012, operating Harare to Johannesburg followed by domestic services from Harare to Bulawayo and Victoria Falls in Apr-2013. As part of a recovery plan the workforce has been cut from over 1,000 to about 300 and fares have been slashed as part of a three month campaign to restore public confidence the carrier which previously linked Zimbabwe to its neighbours as well as Europe and Asia.
Simple ownership change to forgive USD150m of debt is not enough to place Air Zimbabwe back on track
Zimbabwe has forced the issue of rising debt at national carrier Air Zimbabwe by disbanding the airline, officially known as Air Zimbabwe Holdings, and re-launching it as Air Zimbabwe Private Limited. Local reports have put the carrier's debt at USD150 million, USD30 million of which is owed internationally, including in the US and China. The ownership structure of the new airline has not been disclosed, although the Government is reportedly trying to woo investors.
The move is not a cure-all. Before the new carrier can be taken seriously, it needs not only independent management but also structural changes within government to benefit the country and trickle down to the airline.
Ethiopian Airlines has decided on its first set of routes for its new Boeing 787 fleet, which will be placed into service in June. The carrier will initially deploy its first 787 on short/medium-haul flights to Dubai and Johannesburg from June before using the type on its first long-haul route, to Guangzhou, from August. Ethiopian, which will be the first airline to operate 787s in the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region, also plans to use its first batch of four 787s to serve Harare in Zimbabwe and Lusaka in Zambia.
CAPA initially reported in June that Ethiopian intended to make Guangzhou one of its first 787 destinations. In December, CAPA reported that Guangzhou remained high on its list of potential 787 routes but Ethiopian was also considering using 787s to serve Hong Kong and to open potential new destinations in Asia including Chongqing in China, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore.
Zimbabwe’s indigenous aviation industry has been uncertain at best, underscored by Air Zimbabwe grounding its entire fleet last month. Even if the carrier resumes services, its future is not guaranteed. Instead Zimbabwe will have to rely on intercontinental and regional carriers. In the former category, Emirates will launch services in early Feb-2012, which will help maintain whatever trade links and international relations Zimbabwe has left. From regional African carriers, Air Namibia will resume service and Zambezi Airlines plans to increase its offering, which will help supplement the country’s regional needs. While total capacity in Zimbabwe has dropped since mid-2011, it is expected to increase this year but by May-2012 will still be down 11% from a year earlier.
Saudi Arabia’s LCC experiment may be drawing to an unwelcome close. nasair, the kingdom’s first – and now sole surviving – LCC announced it has suffered a 1Q2011 loss, due to the troubled situation in the Middle East and North Africa reducing passenger traffic and the increasing price of oil.