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Air Zimbabwe seeks suitors for long-haul aircraft

by Staff reporter
08 Nov 2022 at 05:02hrs | Views
AIR Zimbabwe, the country's State-owned carrier, is courting potential takers to lease out its long-haul aircraft, as part of efforts by the national airline to consolidate its revenue base as it emerges from the woods.

So far, the national flag carrier, which came out of reconstruction last year, has a total fleet of seven aircraft including three that are servicing domestic and regional routes like South Africa.

Air Zimbabwe was placed under reconstruction by the Government in October 2018 to prevent legal action and attachment of its assets as a combination of huge debts encompassing US$30 million in foreign liabilities and $349 million (Zimbabwe dollars) obligations owed to local creditors weighed on the company.

In an interview on the sidelines of the CEO Africa Annual Roundtable in Victoria Falls last week, Air Zimbabwe acting chief executive officer Tafadzwa Zaza said they had long-haul aircraft that include the Boeing 777 (B777) they want to lease out.  

"And as a strategy we want to lease them out for now while we are consolidating our revenue base, thereafter, when we are consolidated, we can start the international routes.

"We cannot start by operating on the international sector without consolidating on the domestic and regional markets, that's why we are not operating the B777," he said.

In recent years, the national airline has been beefing up its fleet including through the acquisition of two Boeing 777-200ER bought from Malaysia in 2020, which were both earmarked for long overhaul destinations.

However, Air Zimbabwe due to the adverse impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, the delivery of the two aircrafts was delayed as the global aviation industry was subdued.

Mr Zaza would not be drawn into revealing the potential takers for the aircraft that Air Zimbabwe intends to lease out confidential issues.

"This is work in progress we are receiving potential takers and we are still negotiating with them, we cannot divulge at this stage because we are negotiating in confidence so once the deal is done you will be advised," he said, adding that the airline was committed to contributing policy targets to the National Development Strategy 1 (NDS 1).

He said following the appointment of a substantive Air Zimbabwe board chaired by Dr Silvanos Gwarinda on August 1 this year, the mandate was to make sure the airline contributes to NDS 1 through restructuring of the entity and opening of new routes.

"We are on the right track because we are acquiring the other aircraft before the end of the year, and we are working on the new routes that we want to open which I will not talk about right now. You will be advised when it's the right time but we are in the right direction working on opening these new routes," said Mr Zaza.

Meanwhile, Air Zimbabwe has made significant progress towards settling its US$140 million debt to the International Air Transport Association (IATA) having cleared 90 percent of the debt.

Zimbabwe was suspended from IATA membership some years ago.

IATA is a global aviation body that works with airlines and their air transport industry to foster safe, reliable, secure, and economical travel.

IATA is on record acknowledging that Zimbabwe has made progress on reducing the debt that is owed under blocked funds that could not be repatriated from ticket sales, cargo space and other regulated activities.

As a result of the arrears that Zimbabwe owes to IATA the country remains suspended from being a member of this international body and thus the airline cannot get credits that are settled through IATA and the market is ready and comfortable to do business with registered IATA members.

Source - The Herald