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Air Zim to be relaunched
Friday, 23 March 2012
The Zimbabwean government recently announced it will absorb the $140m (R1bn) debt of its national carrier and relaunch the airline under a different name, but whether Air Zimbabwe will ever be able to regain the trust of the travel industry remains to be seen.

The government last week disbanded Air Zimbabwe Holdings and immediately announced the formation of a new State-owned company, Air Zimbabwe Private Limited. Transport, Communications and Infrastructural Development Minister, Nicholas Goche, explained the government would take over Air Zimbabwe Holdings’ assets, liabilities, contracts and employees. The ‘new’ Air Zim will reportedly use an airbus A320 aircraft for domestic and regional routes and acquire more aircraft on lease to service its international routes.

State Enterprises Restructuring Agency executive director, Edgar Nyoni, added massive job cuts were on the cards. He was quoted in a local newspaper as saying: “The aim is to relieve the parastatal from the debt burden whereby government will be able to meet its obligations. Currently it employs 1 400 people and so there is a possibility of downsizing it.”

Although the absence of Air Zimbabwe has left the domestic travel industry paralysed, as they are now reliant on expensive charter flights, the Zimbabwean tourism industry is equally wary of the new airline and says a simple name change is not sufficient. Emmanuel Fundira, former president of the Zimbabwe Council of Tourism, says: “From an industry perspective, this is game over. There is no way Air Zim will find easy entry into the travel trade anymore as industry players are hopelessly disappointed by the government.”

According to Fundira the government is merely postponing the inevitable. He says: “It is the same government that has directly contributed to the demise of the national airline and now prefers to wear a different hat and hoodwink the market. Markets are much smarter than that. Besides the new board comprises of bureaucrats and nothing new will come of this.”

The industry further questions where the government will obtain the necessary funds to absorb the debt of the ailing national carrier. Fundira says: “The purchase of the new equipment is shielded in lots of secrecy and one cannot stop suspecting that a barter deal may have been struck with a friendly investor.” He adds that Air Zimbabwe employees are still owed several months of salaries.

Regaining the trust of the travel industry will also not be an easy task. South African travel agents told TNW’s sister publication, eTNW, that they’re not ready to book their clients on Air Zimbabwe again anytime soon. Graham de Wit of Astra Travel said: “They must first prove their bona fides and pay all their debts including refunds.” Another agent, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “I don’t think I will ever book them. They are not reliable. Take it at your own risk; that is what I will tell my clients.”

Dorine Reinstein

The Editor
By : Tourism Update
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