Zimbabwe’s latest airline venture
Zimbabwe Airways has come into existence but is it feasible?
EXTRAORDINARILY, and some might say, imaginatively, Zimbabwe has created a new airline, called Zimbabwe Airways. This new company has allegedly bought a massive 300 seater Boeing 777200ER from Malaysian Airways.
There are even photos of the new aircraft, probably taken in Malaysia, with new signage which reflect Zimbabwe’s national colours and its famous Zimbabwe bird on the plane’s tail.
There is not yet any information about how any Zimbabwe airline company would fill such an enormous aircraft on its small regional routes, most of which are no longer in use or have huge competition from other companies, such as SAA.
Chief operating officer of Air Zimbabwe Simba Chikore, President Robert Mugabe’s son-in-law, who sounded pleasant and polite, answered his phone from a number which seems to originate in Dubai.
He said he “could not comment” on the new plane. “I am not the government of Zimbabwe.” But he did say that Zimbabwe was trying to do its “best to get new equipment for the airline.” He said “we” the public will know when that happens. Chikore was, before his marriage, a first officer with Qatar Airways.
Air Zimbabwe was recently disallowed to fly to, or over Europe for safety reasons attached to its only two long-haul, elderly Boeing 767 aircraft, which need maintenance apparently, and which usually fly Mugabe, his wife and many senior public servants on their frequent international trips around the world.
Air Zim only has two more small aircraft in the air at present which fly against competition to and from Joburg, and within Zimbabwe.
Air Zimbabwe’s most profitable route used to be to Gatwick Airport, London, as hundreds of thousands of Zimbabweans moved to live in the UK after political violence and economic collapse emerged after the new political party, the Movement for Democratic Change, nearly beat Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party in the 2000 elections.
One of Air Zimbabwe’s 767s was impounded for weeks at Gatwick in 2012, after creditors seized it to force Air Zimbabwe to settle its bills for spare parts from the US supplier.
Since then Air Zimbabwe cancelled its profitable route to ‘Harare North’, as London is known to many Zimbabweans.
Beloved Mupfururirwa, local inspector for Central African Airways Aviation, which would need to be involved in the registration of any new commercial aircraft, would not talk with The Star. He said Air Zimbabwe’s information would deal with this question.
But Air Zim didn’t answer its phone.
According to information on social media in the last 24 hours, the Zimbabwe Airlines 12-year-old Boeing 777-200ER was leased from Malaysia Airlines.
Air Zimbabwe has enormous debts to suppliers and its workforce, and some suggest the name change to Zimbabwe Airways, and some creative accounting in terms of the lease name and ownership details would put at least some cosmetic distance between it and Air Zimbabwe, and this might allow this new airline to operate without financial difficulties or repetitive embarrassment.
But whether the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) would welcome Zimbabwe back under unclear circumstances of real ownership of the aircraft and technical staff, is not clear.
Ethiopian Airways has previously said it would help Air Zimbabwe regain its former status as a busy, efficient and profitable regional airline.
It is not clear whether Zimbabwe could fill a Boeing 777200ER, even to Gatwick Airport if EASA would let any Zimbabwe airline fly over its territory again. – Foreign Service
POLITE: Simba Chikore, the chief operating officer of Air Zimbabwe. He is President Robert Mugabe’s son-in-law.