airzim.jpgThere is uncertainty over the future of the national carrier, Air Zimbabwe as the company is grappling with serious viability challenges and a back-breaking debt burden of over US$50 million.

While the local air-carrier has been beset by viability problems for many years due to inadequate foreign currency and in recent years by sanctions, the introduction of multicurrency payment system was expected to turn around the fortunes of the beleaguered airline but it appears the performance has continued to plunge.


On-lookers are pointing fingers at the cost-cutting measures which have seen the transporter pulling out of several lucrative routes such as Harare- DRC, Harare- Dares-Salaam, Harare- Lilongwe and Harare- Nairobi.


They believe such cost-cutting measures should have been complimented by other strategies to salvage and maintain the market share.


The measures include the merging of some of the destinations in order to maintain a foothold on the market and to increase the revenue inflows.
The drying up of reasonable earnings in the national airline company has led to a number of difficulties including the swelling of the debt burden and in some instances the carrier is forced to pay cash upfront for all services rendered at foreign ports.


Air Zimbabwe Group Chief Executive Officer Dr Peter Chikumba said pulling out of the continental routes is a temporary measure owing to operational challenges.


The airline has also been kicked out of IATA due to its failure to pay debts and all its attempts to go regional in partnerships with Air Malawi, Air Mauritius, Zambia, Tanzania and Kenya have come to naught.


It is also alleged that these partnerships have been aborted on claims that some of the airlines were not performing although it was realized later that more foreign currency earnings could have been realized from such partnerships.  


While Air Zimbabwe has pulled out of the regional routes, others have quickly stepped in an increased their flying frequencies on the same markets.


Ethiopian airlines which are currently dominating the Zimbabwean skies have taken over the Harare-Dubai route which is on high demand among Zimbabwean business people.


Air Zimbabwe has been a perennial loss making airline owing to polarized industrial relations, old and unappealing equipment, weak marketing strategies leading to poor productivity.


Currently, the airline is embroiled in a labour dispute with more than 400 workers set to cost the airline millions of dollars.
Once upon a time, the envy of many countries and a major player on regional and international routes, the national airline has withdrawn from most of the routes.


Rampant cancellations of scheduled flights are also a major challenge that has forced many fliers to opt for other service providers.


Sources close to the developments at the national airline reveal that there is rampant malpractice within management with some of them being under qualified for the posts they are currently holding.


They said management at Air Zimbabwe cancelled the order for seats from Avio Interiors with an attendant loss of US$250 000 and the placement of the same order with American General Suppliers who reportedly supplied used seats.