ZIMBABWE – Zimbabwe says it is protecting its struggling national carrier – Air Zimbabwe – by refusing to grant permission to airlines that want to service the lucrative Harare- London route.
Air Zimbabwe has not been servicing the route since 2012 after creditors threatened to seize its planes over debts. The collapse of the airliner has seen a number of low cost airlines securing licenses to ply regional and domestic routes.
I am inundated by many airlines wanting to get into the Harare-London route. That one I am still protecting.
Competition on the Harare- Johannesburg route is threatening to ground Air Zimbabwe, with some airlines slashing fares by at least 40 percent in the past few days.
Transport and Infrastructural Development minister Joram Gumbo said although the government wanted to promote an open skies policy – the Harare- London route would remain a preserve for Air Zimbabwe.
“I am inundated by many airlines wanting to get into the Harare-London route. That one I am still protecting” he said. ”There are many, I can’t even mention them. Some are top international airlines that tell me that they want to partner us and ply the route.
“The likes of fastjet and others have been applying for the Harare-London route.” Gumbo said the route had attracted scores of travellers from other African countries as Air Zimbabwe used to fly direct to London.
“We want to have long-haul airplanes from here going to London and other places in Europe and have other small aircrafts such as flyAfrica, fastjet and Air Zimbabwe, which fly regionally so that Harare becomes the connecting international airport,” he added.
Air Zimbabwe used to fly between Harare and London six times a week. The airliner also offered flights from the UK to Victoria Falls on a charter basis for tour operators. The government is confident that the embattled Air Zimbabwe would resume long-haul flights to London soon.
Meanwhile, the licensing of more airlines to service the Harare-Johannesburg routes has seen ticket prices taking a serious knock, forcing the traditional carriers to introduce promotions.
The lowest priced fares on the route are $80 one-way excluding government and airport taxes ($50 departing Zimbabwe or $35 departing South Africa).
Air Zimbabwe has rolled out a promotion, which has seen it charging $130 for a one way flight to Johannesburg from Harare and $240 for return flights excluding airport departure tax.