Zimbabwe has averted further possible withdrawals by foreign airlines after committing to clear the US$136 million debt owed to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), amid optimism that full ticketing in the country by some airlines will soon be restored.

Lack of repatriation of remittances had blighted fiscal operations of airlines, prompting foreign players such as British Airways operating through Comair, and Kenya Airways withdrawing ticketing services in Zimbabwe.

Authorities have now moved to avert further dents with airlines following commitment to release US$150 million to service IATA’s US$136 million debt and other debts, a development widely viewed as a critical pedestal to improve relations with international airlines

The repatriation debt was negatively affecting the country’s brand as more airlines were mooting to follow in the footsteps of Kenya Airways, on revelations that South African Airways is owed around US$90 million.

Industry players are confident that this commitment by government will reboot confidence in the market.

“This is a critical step for the benefit of the entire local industry but mostly us in the tourism sector,” said Mr Emmanuel Fundira, the Safari Operators Association of Zimbabwe President.

The debt overhang, a legacy dating back to the last six years, grew from US$2,7 million in 2015 to the current figure as treasury failed to get adequate funds  towards servicing the debt.