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Zimbabwe drops Zimbabwe Airways in favour of Air Zimbabwe

by Staff reporter
07 Mar 2018 at 08:12hrs | Views
The Zimbabwean Government has pulled the plug on the now stillborn Zimbabwe Airways project with Minister of Transport Joram Gumbo having now decided to focus on resuscitating the moribund Air Zimbabwe.

Sources familiar with the matter told The Zimbabwe Independent newspaper last week that Gumbo is now concentrated on turning around Air Zimbabwe with the recruitment of a chief executive officer and a chief operations officer having been conducted last month.

Former COO Simba Chikore skipped the country following the ouster of his father-in-law, Robert Mugabe, in a military-backed coup in November last year. Chikore is alleged to have partaken in the Zimbabwe Airways project at the expense of Air Zimbabwe's revival.

Zimbabwe Airways was to have launched in October 2017 with a quartet of ex-Malaysia Airlines B777-200(ER)s having been sourced via the Zimbabwe Aviation Leasing Company (ZALC), a shadowy firm whose ownership is said to include lawyers, members of the Zimbabwean diaspora, and business people related to the aviation industry.

Insofar as Air Zimbabwe's relaunch plans are concerned, the Daily News has reported what it said is the carrier's official refleeting strategy.

According to the report, government, as the airline's sole shareholder, intends to inject USD190 million into the airline over the next three years for use in acquiring a variety of narrow- and wide-body aircraft.

In terms of narrowbody jets, the airline is looking to procure three ERJ-145s over the next 12 months to develop its short- and medium-haul routes. Two aircraft will be inducted via lease in the interim. In terms of cargo operations, two B737-300(F)s will be acquired to resuscitate the cargo market left vacant by the demise of Affretair (ZL, Harare Int'l) in the early 2000s.

It is also looking to acquire four B777s. Whether these are linked to the aforementioned Zimbabwe Airways quartet is uncertain.

The carrier is also looking to acquire a Bell Helicopter 206 BIII for medevac operations and a Mooney M20R Ovation for training.

USD13 million will also be allocated to clearing its debts with the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) as a step towards gaining its TCO and thereafter resume its Harare Int'l-London Gatwick route.

If properly done, and without political interference, Air Zimbabwe expects to turn a modest profit of USD200,000 by year-end growing to USD22 million by 2020.

No mention was made of the airline's USD300 million debt overhang which government has pledged to absorb as a sweetener to lure in a strategic partner.

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