SOUTH African Airways (SAA) broke the ice Wednesday to become the first airliner to land using a wide-bodied aircraft at the Victoria Falls International Airport following completion of the facility late last year.
The 222-seater Airbus A330-200 landed soon after midday with 188 passengers aboard to a rousing welcome by a crowd made up of tourism players, operators, hoteliers and government officials.
The airbus is an upgrade from the 140 and 150-seater aircrafts the airliner has been using before the refurbishment of the airport which now accommodates wide bodied aircraft and can handle 1.5 million passengers annually.
The airbus boasts of two compartments, three rows of seats, 36 for the business class and 186 for the economy class.
SAA country manager for Zimbabwe, Winnie Muchanyuka, said the launch was
to show commitment to the Zimbabwean market.
“This has been a long journey and launching the airbus is a dream come true which every airline manager would want to achieve. We are grateful to all in the tourism sector for the effort you all put,” she said while addressing a gathering at the ceremony to launch the airbus at the airport.
She said the huge plane had beat the full daily capacity of previous aircrafts which had been carrying a maximum of 157 passengers.
Zimbabwe Tourism Authority chief operating officer, Givemore Chidzidzi, said the country has potential to attract more airlines as he added that next week tourism authorities will be meeting in Berlin, Germany where a massive marketing of the country as a destination will be made.
The airport was upgraded at a cost of $150 million and now has a 4km by 60 metres runway and associated taxiways capable of landing long haul wide bodied aircraft.
Different stakeholders who attended the ceremony said they were excited by the development and vowed to vigorously market the airport.Advertisement