AIR Zimbabwe is still negotiating with a London navigation agency to clear its $3 million debt to enable it to resume flights on the Harare-London route, a Cabinet minister said.
Transport and Infrastructural Development Minister Joram Gumbo said in an interview that negotiations were underway with the debtor to enable Air Zim to resume flights to British capital.
“Our aim is to resume flights on Harare-London route. As such, we’re negotiating with creditors that we owe on that route,” he said.
Air Zim has done well to service common domestic routes including Harare, Bulawayo, Victoria Falls and Kariba, but it has struggled to replicate this service on regional and international routes.
Minister Gumbo has hitherto indicated that the lucrative Harare-London route would continue to be preserved for Air Zim, as it sorts out its chronic legacy issues prior to resuming the flights.
The Harare-London remains one of the most viable routes the national airline could exploit, but Air Zimbabwe stopped flights fearing attachment of its aircraft by Worldspan over its $2,8 million debt.
The creditor, Worldspan, is a provider of travel technology and content. Air Zimbabwe once had similar issues with aviation firms in South Africa, which it has cleared and has been able to resume flights into that country.
Minister Gumbo said the negotiations, which began around 2012, were progressing well and should be completed sooner than later.
The debt is only a fraction of the over $298 million legacy debts, which the national air carrier owes, including to workers.
Minister Gumbo said most airlines across the globe were not doing well like Air Zimbabwe, and were saddled with huge debts, which their governments took over to enable them to start on a clean slate.
He said negotiations were in progress with the government for a takeover of the State air carrier’s debt to enable it to lure investors.
This forms part of extensive options being undertaken to restore Air Zimbabwe as the pride of Zimbabwe’s aviation as was the case during the golden era when it used to carry the nation’s flag across the globe.
Those initiatives include the ongoing negotiations with a total of 12 airlines for either possible partnership or lease of aircraft.
Minister Gumbo said it is not clear yet which option will materialise, as no agreement has been reached with anyone yet.
“We are negotiating with many companies, about 12 airlines we are talking and they all want to do business with us,” he said.
“Negotiations are ongoing, either for partnership or lease of aircraft, but those are the options.”
According to tourism industry experts, a national tourism strategy that relies heavily on foreign airlines is likely to keep changing.
This is because of the fact that foreign airlines are driven by profitability, if the route becomes unprofitable, they quickly pull out, which is why Air Zimbabwe must work to resolve its legacy issues.
Since tourism and investment are clearly enunciated in the economic policy as key for growth, it is incumbent for the government to make deliberate policies in order to re-equip the airline.