September 08, 2010 the strike of Air Zimbabwe Pilots attracted attention from nearly all world media, as the state-owned carrier’s 60 pilots and cabin crew went on strike pressing for the payment of their outstanding allowances. The Zimbabwe (Capital Harare) based airline, has famous routes for destinations like Victoria Falls, Botswana, South Africa, UK, China and a basket full of important regional connection flights. With the “still fresh” memories of fall of another African Airline, Ghana International not in distant past, chaos and predictions followed the strike immediately. However, for being the only direct flights between London and Harare, Air Zimbabwe carries a strong reputation and history of services. Hundreds of passengers awaited stranded and upset, for the airline to resume immediately in Zimbabwe and UK.
Late Wednesday (September 22, 2010), the Air Zimbabwe Manager for Europe, Mr. David Mwenga announced the airline will resume flights from Friday September 24, 2010.
Where most of the refunds and re-routings are already in place and passengers stranded in airports are provided with guide line, alternate options and assistance form airline staff and agencies, it is obvious that the airline will make a clean way out form the disastrous strike, as far as its reputation is concerned. However, the loss estimated so far turns out to be 5 billion and may pose a serious threat to the secure future of this struggling airline. Also, in the government prospectus published last year, it is stated that Air Zimbabwe needed US$750 million to renew its fleet and install a hangar fire protection system. The government would give up a 60 percent stake in exchange for the cash injection under this plan.
The calculations also conclude that the passenger numbers have declined by more than 30% since 2000. However it will not be fair to blame the airline for the decline as the world has seen the biggest economic down turn and tourism in countries like Zimbabwe is most affected during the last decade recession.
Mr. Mwenga told Zimbabwe News:
“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 organize our flight programs. Our passengers are advised to check with our offices in Harare and London.”
He also stated that 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.
There is also a high volume of customer recommendations to the airline where a majority suggests the airline should change the interiors of the plane and for some destinations; it should introduce more advanced aircrafts. However, such transformations may make this low-cost airline, a high cost carrier. Currently, Air Zimbabwe flies two 767s between Harare-China and Harare-London and three 737s for regional routes services (flights to South Africa and the Democratic Republic of Congo). Whereas the Domestic routes are mainly plied by three Chinese Xian MA 60 turboprops. The most popular route of Air Zimbabwe is between London-Harare, Johannesburg-Harare and direct flights to Victoria Falls from Harare. Also, Air Zimbabwe is the most selling airline for Direct Flights to Harare from London Gatwick Airport. Also, it provides the cheapest flights to Harare even in the busiest seasons. The economy fares of Air Zimbabwe stand to be a good fit in any budget, where as the business class fares on Air Zimbabwe are below 1500 GBP inclusive, usually. It is a sign of relief for many tourists, travelers and agencies that Christmas season will see a lot of Air Zimbabwe flights leaving Gatwick Airport !