Zimbabwe’s struggling airline, Air Zimbabwe, needs at least $50 million to resume full international operations, Transport and Communication permanent secretary Munesu Munodawafa, revealed Monday.
Munodawafa, who is also the airline’s interim board chairman, told the parliamentary transport committee that $30 million would go towards settling the parastatal’s international debt.
Munodawafa said the airline, which is saddled with a $188 million debt, resumed local and regional operations after receiving $8.5million from treasury last year.
He said the bulk of this money was used to pay debts in South Africa.
Munodawafa said the debt is stalling efforts by the national airline to secure a strategic partner.
The debt has increased to $188 million from $140 million in the last 12 months.
Munodawafa said a new Air Zimbabwe board to be announced next week is expected to implement recommendations made by a private consultant, including the need to re-brand and market the airline extensively.
The interim board chairman said most of the airline’s fleet is currently grounded.
He also revealed that the airline is paying $500,000 a month to lease the two A320 airbus aircraft which are currently not being used to full capacity.
Munodawafa said Air Zimbabwe is also not yet fully operational locally with just four weekly flights servicing the Harare, Bulawayo and Victoria Falls routes.
Acting chief executive officer, Innocent Mavhunga, explained to the committee that current Air Zimbabwe operations are not viable, especially the use of big planes which in most cases fly half empty.
Other challenges facing Air Zimbabwe include a mismatch between the airline’s fleet and staff complement. The old fleet, the committee was told, is too expensive to maintain.
Travel warnings that have been issued against Zimbabwe have also brought down the number of people visiting the country.
Munodawafa said despite the challenges, Air Zimbabwe will be able to satisfy travel needs for the United Nations World Tourism Organisation general assembly to be held in Victoria Falls and Livingstone in August.