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Aren't we just proud of Air Zimbabwe's safety record

02 Jun 2018 at 15:46hrs | Views
IF Air Zimbabwe (AirZim) really, really was serious about marketing itself well, it would make enough money to buy more planes and pay workers, including those it surreptitiously fired.

Now that's the bank queue economist in me speaking. The facts are that it's safer to fly than drive or go on a bus. If only the national airline latched onto this bare fact then you would see where my thoughts are drifting to.

When was the last time you heard about AirZim crashing? It's reputation perhaps, but we are talking crash and burn here. Even if you fly on a wing and a prayer each time you board, AirZim has continued to defy the laws of accidental gravity - if you catch my drift.

I am not here to shower praise because they have had their fair share of mishaps, most of them having to do with an atrocious customer care.

The last 'major' incident, apart from the regular stories about the national airline taking off with two passengers, was one in which one of their planes hit a warthog on the runway. And we are not talking Vic Falls here where you half expect an elephant to saunter onto the runway.

It was at the Robert Mugabe International Airport. Then there was the bird flock incident. You might not have been born then, which shows how long back when one of their planes ploughed into a flock of birds. I can imagine this happening in a European country, where they could have certainly been sued by the local bird watching club.

Never mind the human passengers who must have done something embarrassing in their garments at the time.

But let the truth be told that Air Zimbabwe, for all its sins, has an impeccable safety record. In the air, that is. On the ground is a different story that will be the subject of a future article.

A worrying thought is about us inheriting planes grounded by the superstitious Malaysians. After two mysterious crashes, they decided to sell their Boeing 777s for a song.

Don't blame us for jumping at the opportunity, given our record of buying second hand. I mean look at all those Honda Fits (my brother calls them s'bhonda Fit) terrorising motorists everywhere!

The planes look sleek enough. Better than those hideous Chino-Pakistani numbers that one late former Vice President dubbed, 'flying coffins.' Even those still manage to cling to the sky.

Back to the subject of the national airline. Like I said, given their track record, everyone and their granny would be scrambling for seats. But we are not. Spare a thought for some African airlines that at one time were the subject of bar room talk. In one famous case, the pilot threw out several passengers to make way for a herd of goats belonging to a now late dictator.

In another, the flight was diverted to Paris to pick up the wife and kids of an official who were having a time of their life at Euro-Disney. In West Africa, as has been in the case here recently, having a ticket does not guarantee you a seat. Don't be surprised to share seats with market women carrying live chickens and selling groundnuts. We aren't there yet, but at the rate at which we are going…

What then should Air Zimbabwe do that is of urgency? The national airline should reclaim its reputation of having a tradition of caring and not scaring. They should play on their impeccable safety record against all odds. There is good a story to be told there.

Second, there should be a sense of urgency in all their efforts to reclaim sanity. Evidence is that the government has given up on this once crown jewel of all public enterprises. Weeding out the rot is no mean task.

Getting out from the coattails of government is another. That the relationship has turned toxic is no secret. It's been pretty much like being in an abusive marriage if the truth be told. Treating customers as what they should be, kings and queens, because the reality is that they are the one's that enable the airline to pay the bills.

Customer satisfaction has plummeted to record lows. It's a miracle that people still make a beeline to use its far from satisfactory service when compared to other airlines. If it wasn't for the monopoly AirZim has on certain lucrative routes, there would certainly be blood in the water.

Yet as the government declares Zimbabwe open for business, the protection that the national airline enjoys (and abuses) will soon fall away. The first shots have been fired with the advent of Zimbabwe Airlines. Let's hope we are not witnessing the demise of an iconic institution.

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