BA in talks to resume Zim flights

By Taurai Mangudhla, Business Writer

HARARE -
British Airways (BA) is expected to start flying to Harare next year, adding to the number of international and regional airlines landing on Zimbabwe’s runways, Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) chief executive Karikoga Kaseke says.

BA’s move comes amid increasing interest among airlines to fly to Harare.

Fly Emirates started flying to Harare this year and has since increased frequencies while Air Namibia resumed flights to Harare.

South African Airways (SAA) yesterday announced plans to expand its route network into Harare with the launch of its Durban-Harare route starting October 3.

The development will increase the airline’s flights from the current 18 per week, as part of a broader regional expansion strategy.

“We hope that British Airways will be coming here next year, that’s what I hear and we hope Qatar (Airways Company) will be coming here. They Qatar wanted to come before the end of the year but they will be coming I think next year,” said Kaseke.

“We are more interested in European carriers; if we can get three European carriers coming to Harare I think it will be better somehow,” added the ZTA chief, and in line with tour operators who expect to ride on increased air traffic.

Qatar’s interest to establish routes to Harare were first announced by Transport minister Nicholas Goche earlier this year, when he told a parliamentary committee negotiations with the Middle East-based airline were at an advanced stage and could be concluded once the company finalised its routes.

Kaseke said KLM Royal Dutch Airlines (KLM) is also expected to start flying to Harare this year and become the first European airline to land in Zimbabwe after BA abandoned the route at the height of economic stagnation and hyperinflation.

This follows reports KLM, will resume flights to Harare in combination with Lusaka, Zambia at the end of October.

KLM plans to offer three direct flights between Harare and Amsterdam while an extra 11 weekly flights will go via Nairobi, Kenya.

Goches’ department recently licensed budget airline Fresh Air and Sol Aviation Private Limited (Sol Air) to start servicing major domestic routes.

Sol Air was granted the Harare-Kariba-Victoria Falls-Kariba-Harare and the Victoria Falls-Buffallo Range-Victoria Falls routes as well as the Harare-Beira, Harare-Maputo and Harare-Tete regional routes.

Sol Air financers and advisors say the company faces collapse unless it secures lucrative domestic and regional routes, which he claims are reserved for struggling flag carrier Air Zimbabwe.

Nkosilati Sibanda, Sol Air managing director, told the tourism all-stakeholders meeting his company needs profitable routes like the Harare-Bulawayo and Harare-Victoria Falls routes and the Harare-Johannesburg routes to start operations and develop the other routes.

He says developing unproven routes will take at least two years.

“I can’t make a loss for two years,” said Sibanda.

In response to challenges faced by domestic airlines, Kaseke said ZTA will schedule a meeting between Transport secretary Munesu Munodawafa and the Zimbabwe Council for Tourism next week.


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