Embattled southern African flag carrier, Air Zimbabwe remains confident it can resume long-haul flying to London within the next couple of years and is working with authorities in the UK to pave the way for its return, said the airline’s acting chief executive officer, Edmund Makona.
Speaking to Routesonline on the sidelines of the World Routes network development forum, Makona confirmed that the resumption of long-haul flights from Harare is the main development target for the carrier and it seeks to work with the local tourism authority to put Zimbabwe back on the international route map.
“I will lead a delegation to London later this year to work towards the return of Air Zimbabwe back into the market,” Makona explained. “We hope to finalise our long-haul fleet replacement tender by the end of the year but will seek interim capacity to support this proposed route growth.”
These are ambitious plans for Air Zimbabwe which has been limited to serving just local routes since it ended its flights to London Gatwick in April 2012. “When we make a final decision on long-haul, London will be the first destination we serve as we know the traffic is there,” said Makona, but he acknowledged that there remain some “outstanding challenges” which need to be cleared before the carrier can commit to any growth.
Although the Air Zimbabwe executive declined to define the precise challenges that are influencing its long-haul strategy, he confirmed that efforts have started to overcome the issue and the carrier could be in a position to launch flights quickly after it reaches a position when it could give the green light to its plans. This could mean it will initially deploy its 767-200ER, which previously served the market ahead of the arrival of any new aircraft.
Alongside its flights between London and Harare, which at their peak were operated on a six times weekly basis, Air Zimbabwe also previously offered flights from the UK to Victoria Falls on a charter basis for a tour operator.