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Renewed KLM Flights to Zimbabwe Spell Doom for National Airline

Aviation experts and economic commentators say the resumption of flights by foreign airlines in Zimbabwe will further cripple the financially-troubled Air Zimbabwe which stopped operating some months ago due to viability complications.

Royal Dutch Airlines KLM announced recently it will restart flights between Harare and Amsterdam in October, more than a decade after it stopped servicing the route following serious economic and political challenges in the country.

The United Emirates Airlines is also back on the Harare route.

Regional airlines including the South African Airways, Kenyan Airways and Ethiopian Airlines stayed the course even as Zimbabwe reeled from its worst economic turmoil - and continue to operate in the country.

Guy Leitch, managing director of South Africa’s Sky Magazine told VOA the international airlines are exploiting the gap left by Air Zimbabwe currently struggling to settle huge debts.

“I don’t think Air Zimbabwe will be able to recover from this unless it receives yet another major government bailout,” Leitch said.

He also said advanced nations have developed a strong fascination with African routes and markets because it’s one of the very few areas where there has been significant and consistent GDP growth over the last five years.

Economic commentator Masimba Kuchera of the Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development said the latest developments show that Harare is no longer interested in protecting the debt-ridden national airline against competitive foreign airlines.

He added: “What it means is that the government has now accepted that it will not be strategic for them to continue trying to protect Air Zimbabwe by barring other airlines from entering the local air space.

The national airline's debts now stand at more than $140 million.