By Leonard Ncube
Ethiopian Airlines has become the first regional airline to confirm resumption of service into Zimbabwe post Covid-19 with first flight into Victoria Falls scheduled for October 6.
However, aviation experts believe the re-opening of OR Tambo Airport in South Africa is key to revival of the aviation industry in the Sadc region.
Government recently gave the greenlight to domestic and international flights as it lifted the ban on domestic and international travel.
Domestic and foreign travel had been banned on March 30 as the Government imposed measures to curb the spread of Covid-19 at a time when most cases were imported.
The global pandemic came at a time when airlines were gradually increasing capacity and frequency due to rising demand.
Posting on its website, Ethiopian Airlines said it was “pleased to announce resumption of flight services into Victoria Falls effective 6 October 2020.”
The airline has advised prospective travellers to make new bookings or re-activate their previous bookings that were affected by Covid-19, adding that those whose trips were impacted by coronavirus will easily cancel or change flights at their convenience.
The airline has since resumed flights into Namibia and indicated making preparations to fly to other destinations including Johannesburg. It advised travelers to keep their tickets until December 31, 2021.
Local airline, Fastjet, has also announced it will take off on Monday September 21 on the Harare-Bulawayo-Harare route before resuming the Harare-Victoria Falls-Harare route on October 1.
In an interview yesterday, aviation expert, Ms Winnie Muchanyuka, who is also Tourism Business Council of Zimbabwe (TBCZ) president, said South Africa remains key to regional aviation.
“We are happy to be able to resume operations from October 1 especially for those airlines that are based in countries whose borders have opened. We can begin to see some traffic flow to the country,” she said.
“We remain hopeful that South Africa will open its doors soon as OR Tambo is a significant transfer hub for the Sadc region and is crucial for leisure travel itineraries to Southern Africa.
“If South Africa remains closed none of the Southern African-based airlines such as Air Link, BA/Comair, and South Africa Airways (SAA) will be able to resume operations to Zimbabwe,” she said.
Ms Muchanyuka is also SAA country manager for Zimbabwe. She said resumption of flights will breathe some life into domestic tourism especially after the Government gave nod to airlines to start operating from September 10.
Airlines that were flying into Victoria Falls before Covid-19 included Air Zimbabwe, Air Namibia, British Airways, Fastjet, Kenyan Airways, SAA and SA Airlink.
Victoria Falls International Airport is regarded as a game changer in the country’s tourism and aviation after it expanded its 4km long and 60-metre-wide runway. The runway can now accommodate wide-bodied aircraft.
It is hoped that the same zeal exhibited by airlines before the Coronavirus outbreak will continue post Covid-19. The Chronicle