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By Staff Reporter

HUNDREDS of passengers were stranded at London's Gatwick Airport late last night after an Air Zimbabwe plane was impounded with their luggage over outstanding landing fees which the national airliner has failed to pay.

Passengers who arrived at Gatwick Airport just after 7pm aboard a Boeing 767 from Harare International Airport were still at the airport three hours later.

Many were forced to book hotels near the airport, at their cost.

A passenger who was on the flight told New Zimbabwe.com by telephone last night: "We have been told that our luggage has been detained because Air Zimbabwe has not paid landing fees.

"I was supposed to catch a connecting flight to Scotland but that's no longer possible because I have missed the flight and now have to book a hotel which I hadn't budgeted for."

No comment was immediately available from Air Zimbabwe.

Air Zimbabwe has been hit by a foreign currency crisis that has brought Zimbabwe's once thriving economy to its knees. Aviation experts say passengers' security is seriously compromised as Air Zimbabwe currently has no financial capacity to carry satisfactory repairs on its ailing fleet of passenger airplanes.

Recently, Air Zimbabwe has been forced to cancel flights at the last minute owing to a critical aviation fuel shortage.

Flights to South Africa, Britain as well as to Zimbabwe's premier tourist destination, the Victoria Falls, have been disrupted.

Zimbabwe has only a tiny fleet of planes. The London route is serviced by two Boeing 767-200ER.
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