New Zimbabwe.com

Death Nail For Air Zimbabwe As Rival Airline Targets Its Prime Route

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By Alois Vinga


MORE trouble is brewing for Air Zimbabwe (AirZim) following a recent announcement to add another jet to its fleet by rival competitor, Fast Jet Zimbabwe Limited which will start servicing the lucrative Harare-Bulawayo route.

This is the last profitable route the national airline has been plying with a virtual monopoly over the past few years.

The development comes amid allegations that the private airliner is embroiled in underhand dealings implicating senior officials from the Transport Ministry, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAAZ) in a bid to starve Air Zimbabwe out of business.

In a statement Monday, Fastjet said: “We are pleased to be adding another Embraer ERJ145 aircraft to our Zimbabwe-based fleet. As we continue to contribute towards the growth of the Zimbabwean economy and tourism industry this aircraft type is popular with our customers on destinations across our network.”

“The additional aircraft will expand Fastjet’s capabilities and open up new market opportunities, something we remain committed to as we emerge. The 50-seater aircraft was introduced into commercial service on the Harare – Bulawayo route last Friday,” the company said.

The ERJ145 offers capabilities that are compatible with the Zimbabwean and South African regional market needs and offers a comfortable cabin environment with generous legroom seating and excellent operational performance.

Market watchers believe that the penetration of local routes by Fastjet will only disadvantage the national which currently operates large and costly wide-bodied Boeing planes.

Analysts said this implies that Fastjet flights will be cheaper and more affordable than AirZim’s.

As prevously reported by NewZimbabwe.com, axed AirZim administrator, Reggie Saruchera allegedly worked with ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation Authority (CAAZ) officials to promote the interests the competing private entity, at AirZim’s expense.

It is said CAAZ, in conjunction with ministry officials, blocked AirZim from hiring Kenyan captains to train its pilots on how to operate two Brazil-made Embraer jets which were acquired in 2018.

In return, CAAZ was supposed to authorise Fastjet to ply the routes that had been marketed by AirZim, a move which sources said could have been the final nail in the national carrier’s coffin.

But after the deal failed, sources said, Fastjet angrily pulled out its trainers, leaving AirZim stranded.

A source close to developments said it was CAAZ which recommended that Fastjet was better placed to train the AirZim pilots.

Although it currently owns two Embraer jets, AirZim’s captains are not skilled to operate them.

However, Fastjet maintains its relationship with CAAZ was professional.