May 18, 2011

Air Zimbabwe fails to take off

Air Zimbabwe is now teetering on the verge of collapse after Zambezi Airlines withdrew its airline it was leasing to the embattled airline over US$460,000 debt. The crisis-torn airline has also failed to pay its workers April salaries. And the workers have picketed the offices demanding payment. The latest set of problems comes hardly a week after the national airline was suspended by IATA over debt. The airline owes IATA US$280,000 under the Bank Settlement plan and owes another US$3.6 million to the world body dating back three years ago. Zambezi's latest action has resulted in the cancellation of regional and international flights. Zambezi has even withdrawn its staff from Zimbabwe. Officials there flatly refused to comment.

Air Zimbabwe has suffered as a result of undercapitalisation and commendeering of planes by politicians and making a mess of flight schedules. It has suffered declining bookings, rolling strikes and staff exodus. Its Boeing fleet has been retired and was largely relying on the Zambezi Airlines planes it was leasing to service its regional routes. Jonathan Kadzura the Air Zimbabwe board chairman declined to comment yesterday, referring questions to general manager Innocent Mavhunga, who was not immediately available for comment. The airline is now doing local routes only using its noisy and disaster-prone MA60 Chinese planes. Critics say Air Zimbabwe's collapse is emblematic of failure of leadership. (Mail & Guardian)

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