Qatar Airways has made an exciting announcement: “Fly with us from Harare on three weekly flights starting 6 August 2021.
“Throughout your journey, expect the highest standards from the only airline and hub airport to both hold SKYTRAX 5-star ratings for quality and Covid-19 safety measures.”
The airline will be flying three times a week into Zimbabwe.
While the announcement appears the usual made by an airline looking for customers for a new route, it is actually more than just that.
The coming in of Qatar Airways is an endorsement of the New Dispensation’s policy of Zimbabwe is Open for Business, which has ultimately resulted in the opening up of the skies.
Qatar Airways’ move follows the recent coming in of Lufthansa Airlines, which flies to Victoria Falls.
In the aviation sector, Qatar Airways and Lufthansa Airlines are among the biggest in the world, both in terms of fleet and business.
It is no small issue when such giants in the aviation sector endorse a destination — it means there is something which that destination is getting right.
According to Airports of Zimbabwe Company board chair Mr Dave Popatlal, two more high flying airlines from Europe will be coming into Zimbabwe early next year.
With the fear of Covid-19 ravaging the world, it is actually unimaginable that an airline can announce a new route when the recovery of tourism is still shaky because of limited travel.
But these airlines are seeing clearly beyond the Covid-19 troubles, when business is expected to flourish as tourists travel to Zimbabwe.
Even during these Covid-19 times, the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention has rated the country as a low risk destination for travellers, a clear endorsement of the country’s sound Covid-19 response.
Apart from the widely commended way in which Zimbabwe has approached the fight against Covid-19, President Mnangagwa’s administration has been working hard to ensure the country’s development trajectory is open for entry by those who want to do business.
In fact, the Second Republic has been clear about where it wants to take the country in terms of development, and the aviation sector has not been left out.
This explains why giants like Qatar Airways are coming to Zimbabwe, and on Friday, August 6, a water salute will be in order as the ritual of welcoming the airline to Harare.
Air transport cannot be underestimated in the integration of the global economy and the growth of the tourism sector.
The increased interest being shown in Zimbabwe by various airlines means more people out there have been making inquiries about how they can reach the destination.
The interest in doing business in Zimbabwe has not been limited to foreign airlines alone, a lot has been happening among local airlines as they rush to claim a chunk of the business.
Just two weeks ago, Transport and Infrastructure Development Minister Felix Mhona appointed a six-member interim board for Air Zimbabwe, as Government took a step forward to revive the national airline’s fortunes.
The interim board is led by Mr Andrew Bvumbe, who is the head of Zimbabwe Debt Management Office in the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development.
The board was given a task to:
Take over from the administrator and assume the management of the company and manage the company in such manner as it may consider most economic and most likely to promote the interests of the members and creditors of the company;
Oversee the finalisation and implementation of the Air Zimbabwe’s Business Plan as approved by Cabinet;
Revisit the organizational structure and make recommendations to the Ministry on proposed changes;
Finalise the production of audited accounts for the airline;
Instil a high standard of Corporate Governance within the entity; and
Ensure adherence to the schedules by the airline despite limited resources.
Speaking while unveiling the board, Minister Mhona said: “We meet at a time when the world is battling the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, which has affected business in all facets of the economy, including limiting aviation activity, which is a cardinal enabler of globalisation, integration, tourism and business in general.
“The aviation is also a huge industry and a major source of revenue for hundreds of thousands of businesses and families. Notwithstanding the effects of the pandemic, our steadfast commitment to a viable airline will continue to sustain the lives of our people.
“Under a difficult financial climate and operational challenges, Air Zimbabwe remains the national flagship and Government will do all in its power to sustain operations and viability of the airline.”
Air Zimbabwe is coming out of Administration under which it was placed in terms of the Reconstruction of State-Indebted Insolvent Companies Act (Chapter 24:27) from 4 October 2018 to 30 June this year.
The airline has since resumed domestic flights after taking a break due to Covid-19 restrictions.
Celebrating the return, Minister Mhona wrote on his twitter handle: “Our wings are back in the skies as we seek to promote domestic and international tourism, as well as facilitating trade.”
The national airline deployed its Embraer (ERJ145) for the local routes, whose capacity is best suited for short hauls.
The airline also later resumed its regional flights from Harare to Johannesburg, and Harare to Dar es Salaam.
Low cost airline Fastjet last week took delivery of a third Embraer ERJ145 aircraft, a 50-seater that has already been introduced into commercial service on the Harare-Bulawayo route.
The airline launched the plane’s inaugural flight from Harare to Bulawayo in style, with a press conference that was held mid air on the way to Bulawayo.
Fastjet board chair Advocate Farai Mutamangira, who addressed the press conference, said the airline was planning beyond Covid-19.
“We are seeing the outlook beyond the pandemic,” he said. “We are also motivated by Government’s response to the outbreak. Look at the rate at which we have accelerated the vaccination of our population, the Government has done its part and as private sector, we need to complement that by doing our part.”
Airports Company of Zimbabwe board chair Mr Dave Popatlal, who was on the inaugural flight, said they were improving airports to ensure more airlines choose destination Zimbabwe.
“As Airports Company of Zimbabwe we have in the pipeline two airlines which are starting the flights from March next year, which is very good news because we are going to fight against international sanctions imposed illegally against Zimbabwe,” he said.
“Fastjet gave a very good example of the initiative. This initiative will ignite other players in our flying fraternity. Citizens, especially those from industry and commerce should be happy. They have a possibility of also getting international connecting flights from Harare and also from Victoria Falls.”
The director for policy planning in the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructural Development, Mr Allowance Sango, said the Government was proud of fastjet’s achievements.
“We have seen now they are registering their fourth aircraft in Zimbabwe and as Government we continue to provide the relevant infrastructural support,” he said.
“We are aware that movement and connectivity is not about planning within a confined sector, we look at inter-mode transportation, road, rail, air as well as inland waters.”
A number of international airlines are already flying into Zimbabwe and these include Ethiopian Airlines, Emirates, Kenya Airways, South African Airways, ComAir, British Airways and RwandAir.
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