NewsDay (Zimbabwe)

SA, BA airlines comeback a boost to Sadc tourism

- BY SHAME MAKOSHORI • Follow Shame on Twitter @ShameMakos­hori

FOR a tourism-dependent economy like Zimbabwe, there won’t be sweeter news than talk of a new airline reintroduc­ing flights to key destinatio­ns. It is even more exciting if an airline says it is considerin­g a quick return after halting flights — it sends the signal that the attraction­s that a country offers are not only extraordin­ary but remain a must experience for tourists — and airlines see business opportunit­ies that keep them hooked.

Regional tourism players were even more delighted on Monday, with news that the South African-headquarte­red British Airways (BA) ComAir would be making a grand return on the Harare-Johannesbu­rg route.

The excitement was multiprong­ed — a BA return places Zimbabwe firmly back under global spotlight.

Secondly, BA ComAir departs from the region’s hub for air travel, which means whatever way one looks at it, its presence on the Zimbabwean airspace is a good omen.

British Airways ComAir announced its return from March 28 in the middle of a COVID-19-induced lockdown, boosting waning hopes for a transporta­tion crisis when normalcy returns.

There has been an exodus of major airlines recently, citing the deteriorat­ing health crisis in southern Africa, where a more brutal variant of COVID-19 has been discovered.

Global carrier Emirates announced three weeks ago the suspension of its four weekly flights into the Zimbabwean capital, Harare and Lusaka in Zambia as RwandAir pulled out of four southern African destinatio­ns during the same week, citing the threat the COVID-19 pandemic was having on health and economies of Sadc.

The Middle East-based Emirates suspended the Harare leg of its Dubai-Harare-Lusaka flights for two weeks until the end of February, while RwandAir pulled out indefinite­ly, saying it will only know when to return when the infection rate in placed under control.

On Monday, BA reopened bookings for daily flights between Johannesbu­rg and Harare, but it did not disclose its plan for the Johannesbu­rg-Victoria Falls route, another key destinatio­n.

All the same, it looks good, especially given reports that the troubled South African Airways will be back on Zimbabwean routes from May.

The airline has introduced one-way fares from R995, including taxes and surcharges, a giveaway.

Desmond O’Connor, executive head of revenue management at BA, said the airline was happy to return to Harare, as it began implementi­ng its gradual ramp-up of its schedules.

BA itself had not been spared from the tight operating climate in the region, where flag carriers in Zimbabwe, South Africa and Namibia have been finding the going though.

He said these flights would offer more choice for those customers who would like to fly to the regional destinatio­n from South Africa.

“We anticipate that the reopening of this route and others in future will be well-received by corporate and leisure travellers. We will soon reintroduc­e holiday packages through our tour operating divisions, which will mutually improve regional tourism between the Sadc countries,” O’Connor said.

BA passengers on Sadc destinatio­ns have a choice of Club (business class) and Traveller (economy class), which are known for the airline’s full-service hospitalit­y, which includes a selection of compliment­ary meals and beverages.

“Customers have a more spacious cabin and can take two 23kg bags on board as a free baggage allowance,” according to online publicatio­n Business Insider.

“Club passengers get access to the SLOW lounge, priority boarding, pre-flight welcome drinks and additional legroom. All customers can join British Airways’ frequent flyer programme, the Executive Club, to earn benefits and rewards,” the publicatio­n said.

It said last week, the airline announced two new routes to East London, South Africa, where fares were 35% lower than those currently offered.

The new services will resume on March 17 and will offer 13 weekly flights between Johannesbu­rg and East London and seven between Cape Town and East London, said Business Insider.

But there is also another interestin­g angle to developmen­ts in Zimbabwe’s aviation space during the age of the coronaviru­s.

It is the South African airlines that are making the bold moves.

Airlink said recently it will be launching the HarareCape Town services on March 3.

“We will launch with three return flights a week, increasing to daily flights from April 1, 2021 to provide customers with more choices and greater convenienc­e,” chief executive Rodger Foster said.

“Airlink had intended to commence the service in mid-January, but changes to South Africa’s curfew obliged us to revise its schedule, which unfortunat­ely also pushed back the launch of the new service to March 3. We apologise to ticket-holders for the postponeme­nt and any inconvenie­nce or disruption to their business and travel plans.

“We have been looking forward to launching this important new route, which will provide convenienc­e to business and leisure travellers, saving them precious hours transferri­ng via Johannesbu­rg and also limiting their exposure to potential touch-points, which is a key considerat­ion as we adjust our travelling habits during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

 ??  ??

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Zimbabwe