Walter Muchinguri in Victoria Falls
A NEW Zimbabwean registered airline, FreshAir, yesterday launched its operations with an inaugural flight from Johannesburg to Harare.
The FreshAir plane later proceeded to Victoria Falls where it made a stop-over before it returned to Johannesburg.
FreshAir, which is jointly owned by Nu.Com (Pvt) Ltd of Zimbabwe and 1Time Holdings Ltd of South Africa in a 51-49 percent arrangement, will service a number of domestic and regional routes starting from the first week of September.
The airline will be using two types of planes, the 132-seater Macdonald Douglas 87 aeroplane that made the inaugural flight and the 157-seater Macdonald Douglas 87 aeroplane.
Fresh Air board chairman Professor Chakanyuka Karase said that their thrust is to offer a low cost, air transport service in support of business, tourism and the travelling public.
“Our business model is driven by a commitment to providing adequate, accessible and affordable air transport services to all,” he said.
“I am pleased that today we are witnessing the realisation of that dream called FreshAir.”
1Time Holdings chief executive and deputy chairman of the AirFresh Board Mr Blacky Komani said they were still finalising their price structure and the route that they will start with.
He added that their fares would be very competitive compared to those that are being charged by existing airlines.
Mr Komani said that the first phase of their operation would see them utilising existing infrastructure and logistics and it is envisaged that the Airline will have at least 32 people stationed in Harare.
The situation, he added, will improve gradually as the new airline takes up new routes with expectation that Zimbabwe will have an office similar to that of 1Time in South Africa.
Transport, Communication and Infrastructural Development permanent secretary Mr Munesu Munodawafa, who presided over the launch on behalf of Minister Nicholas Goche, said the launch of FreshAir was a demonstration that Government has no agenda of blocking indigenous players from entering the aviation industry.
“This is a demonstration that as Government we have opened up the airways to deserving indigenous entities that seek to complement national efforts to effectively service business generally and promote the tourism sector and travelling public in particular.”
He added that Government was committed to assisting any indigenous company that wanted to venture into the aviation industry as long as they meet the stringent benchmarks required in the industry.
“Two weeks ago it was not all smiles as the present situation, I was wearing a serious face because there are things that we wanted Mr Karase to fulfil.
“We will not compromise on safety in this industry,” he said.
Mr Munodawafa said the partnership between FreshAir and 1Time was a significant key to the success of the airline as it would allow network expansion and improved product and services. Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe board chairman Advocate Jacob Mudenda commended FreshAir for the launch.
This, he said, would improve connectivity on the domestic network and enhance the utilisation of the country’s aviation infrastructure, which is below break-even point.
“The launch of FreshAir is coming at the back of other significant developments that have taken place since the beginning of this year.”
Tourism and Hospitality industry permanent secretary Mrs Magaret Sangarwe said that the launch of the airline was a momentous ocassion for the tourism industry, which is heavily dependent on transport.
“We cannot talk of tourism without talking of transport. We need transport to get tourists to different destinations.
“As a Ministry we are fully behind this initiative and will continue to lure more tourists into the country,” she said.