Zimbabwe News and Internet Radio

AirZim pleads for debt relief

The ailing national airline, Air Zimbabwe, is seeking a Government bailout in clearing pre-reconstruction legacy debts that continuously make it difficult to attract strategic investment partners to turn around the entity.

Air Zimbabwe Boeing 767-200

Air Zimbabwe owes foreign creditors up to US$30 million while nine Government-related firms are owed $292 million.

Despite acquisition of two Boeing 777-200ER aircraft, the airline has found the going tough and was subsequently placed under reconstruction in October 2018 in terms of the Reconstruction of State-Indebted Insolvent Companies Act (Chapter 24:27).

In a notice to Air Zimbabwe creditors, the administrator, Mr Reggie Saruchera, of Grant Thornton said: “A process to solicit for a strategic partner or investor was undertaken but none of the parties that expressed interest and submitted investment bids were successful”.

He said Government was appraised of the need to continue with its drive to re-capacitate the national airline and attend to the pre-reconstruction legacy debts, which is a major hinderance.

“As we operationalise the equipment referred above, we are engaging the Government of Zimbabwe to deal decisively with the pre-reconstruction legacy debt.

“This will enable the administrator to settle with all creditors and remove Air Zimbabwe from reconstruction,” said Mr Saruchera.

He said the Boeing 777-200ER aircraft have since been reassigned for use by Air Zimbabwe in support of the reconstruction process to turn around the national airline.

Last month, Government took delivery of the first of two Boeing 777-200ER (Z-RGM) aircraft from Malaysia. The aircraft has a carrying capacity of 282 passengers.

“Maintenance work to bring the remaining Boeing 777-200ER (Z-NBE) aircraft in Malaysia to serviceability is progressing well. All maintenance works are expected to be completed by end of February 2020, paving way for the delivery of the aircraft in March 2020.

“The national airline will be leasing out the two Boeing 777-200ER aircraft in the immediate future, pending re-introduction of international flights to China and London after developing a robust domestic and regional route network,” said Mr Saruchera.

It is hoped that during the lease period, Air Zimbabwe will embark on training of flight crew, maintenance and ground handling personnel. Nine companies have submitted offers to lease the two Boeing 777-200ER aircraft.

Proceeds from the lease of the aircraft will be applied towards the acquisition of additional narrow-bodied aircraft, which will help strengthen the domestic and regional network.

“As you may be aware, Air Zimbabwe has not been able to operate the ERJ145 aircraft since its delivery on 30 April 2019 due to lack of the Know Your Customer (KYC) clearance. The KYC clearance allows the airline to access backup manuals, FlyEmbraer software and spares,” he said.

Mr Saruchera said early this month Air Zimbabwe was advised that the first stage of KYC issues had been cleared, which allows for the national carrier to access FlyEmbraer software, back up manuals and immediately start operating the aircraft.

He said work was underway to facilitate the training of flight crew and line maintenance engineers.

“The aircraft is due for a C-Check this February 2020 and we anticipate to have the aircraft operational by the beginning of the second quarter of 2020. The D-Check on Z-WPA is expected to be completed before the end of February 2020. All other requirements to bring the aircraft into service are being attended to.

“We plan to have the Boeing 737-200 aircraft operating our domestic and regional routes from March 2020,” said Mr Saruchera. The Chronicle