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Passengers Shunning Financially Crippled Zimbabwe National Airline

  • Gibbs Dube

Sources said flights on the Harare-Bulawayo and Harare-Victoria Falls routes have attracted only 47 passengers since Sunday with one flight from Victoria Falls to the capital carrying just one passenger

Although Air Zimbabwe resumed domestic flights this week after the state carrier secured a US$2.8 million government bailout to pay back wages to striking pilots, it is now substantially lacking a critical ingredient to generate revenues: passengers.

Sources said flights on the Harare-Bulawayo and Harare-Victoria Falls routes have attracted only 47 passengers since Sunday with one of the airline’s Chinese-made MA-60 planes carrying only a single passenger from Victoria Falls to Harare.

The sources said the planes were expected to carry more than 50 passengers on each flight. Some 20 passengers turned up for the Harare-Bulawayo flight Wednesday.

Observers said the airline for the time being is running loss-making domestic routes, adding to its negative cash flow and accumulated debts exceeding US$100 million.

Political analyst Livingstone Dzikira said the airline’s problems originated with Reserve Bank Governor Gideon Gono’s pro-ZANU PF monetary policies before the formation of the inclusive government in 2009, so the only solution now is privatization.

Economist Prosper Chitambara said clients are shunning Air Zimbabwe because they lack confidence in its ability to deliver.

Economic analyst Bekithemba Mhlanga said it will take a long time for passengers to regain confidence in Air Zimbabwe, which may not pull out of its financial spin.

Mhlanga said the mere fact that Air Zimbabwe planes are operating well under capacity in terms of passengers highlights the airline's long-term problems. “Their current expenditures are higher than revenues from the few people they are carrying which is precisely the reason why they find themselves in this crisis,” he said.

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