HARARE, March 26 (The Source) – Cash strapped national airline, Air Zimbabwe says it sees its passenger numbers growing by over seven percent this year, higher than the industry average, with new routes driving the growth.
Last year the airline transported 186,365 passengers on its regional network and the domestic markets. However, acting chief executive, Edmund Makona told The Source after a media tour of the company’s facilities that Air Zimbabwe was looking to revive its Harare-London route and that plans were also afoot to resume flights to China.
The airline stopped flights to the United Kingdom in December 2011 after one of its planes was seized by creditors at Gatwick Airport, but Makona said the company was looking to revive the route, which was its cash cow.
“We want to resume those flights as soon as yesterday, but we are working on making sure that we can sustain them,” he said.
“On some routes one needs to be able to sustain it for up to six months before achieving sustainability levels and we want to make sure that we are at that level.”
The airline had currently had four aircraft operational and expects to have its two Airbus A320s mid-range planes, which are being serviced in South Africa, back by month end to help push the passenger volumes.
On the local and regional markets, Air Zimbabwe faces competition from low cost airline, FlyAfrica with another, Fastjet set to enter the market after it was granted an air service permit on Wednesday.
Makona also said Air Zimbabwe was looking to diversify its revenue streams by resuscitating its engineering division as part of a strategy to turnaround the airline, which is saddled by a $298 million debt.
Last year, it realised $32 million in revenue.
He said the engineering facility was undergoing accreditation by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) with certification being expected in the first half of the year and had already been approved by its South African equivalent, allowing it to service aircraft operating in that country.
“We have what it takes to become Africa’s centre for aircraft maintenance. Our engineers are well equipped for that,” said Makona.