AIR Zimbabwe says it is resuming domestic and international flights on Friday after resolving a pay dispute with pilots and cabin crew on Wednesday evening.The state-owned carrier’s 60 pilots and cabin crew went on strike on September 8 pressing for the payment of their outstanding allowances.
The strike left hundreds of passengers stranded in Harare and London, while causing chaos on the airline’s domestic and regional routes.The struggling airline – thought to have lost up of US$5 million during the strike — originally took a tough stance, and at one time appeared to fire the pilots.
But David Mwenga, Air Zimbabwe’s General Manager for Europe, told New Zimbabwe.com on Wednesday night that the striking workers had agreed to return to work on Friday.He said full details of the settlement with the pilots would be revealed later Thursday.
“What I can say for now is that we are resuming flights with our own staff on Friday. We are going ahead to engage our partners at the various airports where our planes fly to trying to see how we organise our flight programmes,” Mwenga said.
Mwenga said he expects the Harare-London route to be re-opened on Friday, with a Boeing 767 leaving the Zimbabwean capital in the morning and arriving in London later that day.“Our passengers are advised to check with our offices in Harare and London.”
Air Zimbabwe flies two 767s between Harare-China and Harare-London. The airline also has three 737s which service regional routes including flights to South Africa and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Domestic routes are mainly plied by three Chinese Xian MA 60 turboprops.
Air Zimbabwe is a perennial loss-maker weighed down by an ageing fleet, debt and the effects of a decade-long economic crisis in the Southern African country.The carrier is currently embroiled in a legal dispute over its move last year to shed over 500 jobs in a bid to cut costs.
A government prospectus published last year showed Air Zimbabwe needed US$750 million to renew its fleet and install a hangar fire protection system. Under the plan, the government would give up a 60 percent stake in exchange for the cash injection.
Air Zimbabwe’s passenger numbers have declined by more than 30% since 2000. This coincided with a sharp drop in tourist arrivals as the country plunged into a political and economic crisis.