AIR Zimbabwe recently asked passengers travelling to Bulawayo to use buses while those not overly enthused with the idea where offered re-funds, airline officials have confirmed.
The airline was forced to cancel last Sunday’s flight to the country’s second largest city and offered passengers the option of a refund or a coach trip.
One of those affected was Mutare businessman and transport operator, Essau Mupfumi who described the development as an insult.
"This is so inconveniencing because we had already made plans for meetings in Bulawayo, only to be told that the flight had been cancelled … it was an insult for Air Zimbabwe to ask us to use buses to travel to Bulawayo,” Mupfumi said.
"When flights are cancelled, the service provider usually pays for the passenger's accommodation while they wait for the next flight and this did not happen after Sunday's flight cancellation.”
Air Zimbabwe has grounded its domestic fleet after the civil aviation authority said the planes were no longer fit for purpose.
"There is no way I can authorise the 767-200 to Bulawayo with 30 people. That does not make any business sense. Even at full capacity to Bulawayo, the 767 plane will be very expensive,” airline chairman, Jonathan Kadzura told the Herald.
"I am not like a stupid bus operator who can authorise a bus to drive from Mutare to Harare with one passenger. We have to make decisions, which do not destroy the airline. I do not have planes to service the domestic route.”
Kadzura also defended the decision to book passengers affected by cancellations on bus trips.
"The decision to book people on buses was made by my management and I am fully behind them,” Kadzura said.
"That was the only sensible thing they could do. These things take a certain level of education to understand.”
There were also reports that people visiting to the resort town of Victoria Falls had to travel to Johannesburg, South Africa first because of Air Zimbabwe’s operational problems.
The airline is battling massive debts and also struggling to find the cash to replace its ageing fleet.