HARARE – National airline, Air Zimbabwe, on Saturday re-introduced its Harare-Dar es Salaam route after a seven-year absence.
The parastatal’s Flight UM438, operated with an Airbus A320, reached its destination at the Tanzania coast, with a full passenger load, the majority of whom participated in the celebration of the new air link.
Transport minister Joram Gumbo, who was guest of honour at the event, said the new service will not only improve connectivity between Zimbabwe and Tanzania but will also aid trade and tourism links between the two African countries.
“We now have to make efforts to ensure that this route does not become dormant again…we last flew here in 2009,” he said.
Gumbo noted that with many Zimbabweans travelling to Tanzania either to buy goods or to collect their vehicles, it was important for the two countries to strengthen their relationship through increased trade.
Air Zimbabwe acting chief executive Edmund Makona said the new route signifies a revival of the struggling flag carrier, with a $300 million debt overhang.
“The turnaround process is not an event but a process on its own and part of that processes is where Air Zimbabwe is looking at making sure it becomes a force to reckon with the regional network before we go international.
“Growth and sustainability is integral within our turnaround strategy and we cannot grow if we cannot increase our route network and this is part of the process,” he said.
Makona added that the national airline was also making strides to return to profitability in the near future so that it becomes attractive to strategic foreign partners.
Aviation experts and passengers said it was crucial for the government to step in firmly and support the company because the airline’s financial health is critical to the performance of tourism and horticulture.
“The airline’s health is also critical to the country’s ambition to be the transport and financial services hub in the region. If the company is allowed to fall deeper into debt, this could be detrimental to Zimbabwe’s five-year tourism plan,” tourism operator David Hughs said.
Meanwhile, on board the inaugural flight, which was met in Dar es Salaam with the traditional water cannon salute, were delegations from the Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe, Air Zimbabwe management and invited guests representing the travel and tourism trade and a number of paying passengers.