Planes grounded as Air Zimbabwe fails to attract passengers
By Felex Share
Air Zimbabwe on Friday failed to resume flights after failing to attract passengers amid reports it incurred a US$6,8 million loss during the just-ended strike by its workers.
Acting group chief executive officer Mr Innocent Mavhunga said commencement of flights was as good “as re-entering the market”. He said it would take the airline over six months to restore customer confidence.
The beleaguered airline on Thursday announced that it would resume flights yesterday after reportedly getting US$2,8 million from the Government. Flights on the Harare-Bulawayo and Harare-Victoria Falls routes were scheduled to resume, but none of the five planes took off Friday.
Late Friday, the Harare-Johannesburg flight, which was scheduled for Monday was deferred to Wednesday under unclear reasons.
“We have started operations but we have not yet started the physical flying because there are no passengers. It is obviously because of the fact that we announced the resumption at short notice and we were expecting it.
“Hard work is really needed to restore customer confidence and we must take into account that it takes time to build (confidence in) the market. It’s like we are re-entering the market,” he said.
Government, Mr Mavhunga said, had committed to give Airzim financial support weekly until it was able to generate revenue. He, however, refused to disclose the amount Government had given them to pay salaries.
Workers are still owed their July and August salaries.
“We have agreed in principle with the workers and we will work hard to resolve what we owe them. While I cannot divulge the amount we got from Government, workers should also understand the fact that resources are scarce.
“We appreciate the workers’ concern but we expect them to appreciate the reality facing the nation,” he said. The strike, Mr Mavhunga said, had cost the airline US$6,8 million.
“It (the strike) was costly not only in financial terms but reputation wise. We have to come up with permanent solutions and we are taking proactive measures to ensure that problems are avoided,” he said.
Mr Mavhunga said charter flights were helping their pilots keep their licences valid. According to aviation laws, if a pilot spends 30 days without flying, he or she has to undergo “recency training”.
“We were fortunate that we had some charter operations during the strike and since the 9th of September after agreeing that they would come to work, they have done their recency training.”
On new planes, Mr Mavhunga said: “This is a shareholder (Government) issue and I also just read about the new planes in the papers.” He said international flights would resume with the Harare-Beijing flight next Friday while the Harare-London flights start on September 25.
The Harare-Lusaka-Lubumbashi flight is also scheduled to resume next Friday.