HARARE – The recent introduction of daily Air Zimbabwe flights to Johannesburg using the A320 Airbus has impacted positively on the market, with airfares on the regional route falling by up to 60 percent.
Other airlines plying the Harare-Johannesburg route including South African Airways and British Airways operated by Comair, were charging up to US$800 for a return ticket while Air Zimbabwe is charging US$350.
The rise in the air fares was driven by a huge demand for the service that was being only offered by foreign airlines. Air Zimbabwe board chairman Mr Ozias Bvute believes that the other foreign airlines were forced to bring down their fares because of increasing competition.
The national carrier resumed regional flights towards the end of last year and has been on an intensive confidence building drive and a marketing offensive to lure lost customers.
He said although the fares appeared sub-economic, the airline was committed to providing a public service that was affordable and accessible to all.
“I am happy that as Air Zimbabwe we have achieved what we have set out to do as we are now using equipment that is appropriate for our routes. On the Harare-Johannesburg route using the Airbus has resulted in us using less fuel and we have passed the benefits on to the travellers.
“Our next step is to develop the route network so that we can offer more domestic and regional destinations. We also want to demystify the notion that flying is out of reach for many people, but instead something that is easily accessible,” Mr Bvute said.
Air Zimbabwe, which has four operational aircraft, recently sent on forced leave over 600 workers as it strives to make the airline more viable after a period of uncertainty triggered by an unstable economic environment.
Mr Bvute said as the route network expands, the national carrier would be in a position to review the staffing position. He stressed that Air Zimbabwe had no plans to retrench the workers as they continued to be on paid leave.
“The idea is that we would like to grow and expand the business and there are some skills that we will need when this happens, but at the moment, our focus is on reorganisation.”
On the appointment of a substantive chief executive, Mr Bvute said the airline had conducted interviews and was now in the process of assessing the candidates to identify the individual “with a shared vision”.
He appealed for support from all Zimbabweans in the efforts to rebuild the national carrier that remained in operation during “the years of isolation” when international airlines pulled out of Zimbabwe at the height of the economic crisis.
“We are now in a position to provide a reliable service and we are encouraging people to use Air Zimbabwe and I can assure you that this will be done in a professional manner,” Mr Bvute said. The Herald