Emirates consolidates Zimbabwe market

HARARE - Emirates, one of the fastest growing airlines in the world, has capitalised on the gap left by Air Zimbabwe becoming one of the favourite airlines in the country the businessdaily has learnt.

Emirates, which began five-times-a-week flights to Zimbabwe via Zambia in February, coinciding with the decline of Air Zimbabwe, has picked up most of Air Zimbabwe’s old customers, particularly from the United Kingdom.

With its wide network of routes, it has also mopped up travellers from the rest of Europe, Asia and Australia.

Raed Al-Rahmah, Emirates country manager for Zimbabwe, said the airline has carried over 35 000 passengers since it began flights to Harare in February this year, translating to over 1 250 passengers per week.

“Emirates is optimistic about the future of air transportation in Zimbabwe, and indeed Africa as a whole,” he said.

“In the short and mid-term, our objective is to achieve healthy and sustained load factors and cargo loads for Zimbabwe. In the longer term, we will continue to assess and carefully analyse the market, its performance and needs, which will show if there are more opportunities for us to further expand our presence."

“The increase from five-times-a-week to daily flights between Harare and Dubai from October 1 is testament to this confidence.”

With a fleet of 175 aircraft and already the largest Airbus A380 and Boeing 777 operator in the world, Emirates currently flies to 123 destinations in 73 countries.

Al-Rahmah said going to a daily service will enable travellers coming into the two host countries more flexibility, and will also provide more connections to them via the Dubai hub.

“We strategically plan and meticulously calculate routes and flexibility that enable us to seize new opportunities whenever they arise,” he said.

The failure by Air Zimbabwe to service international and domestic routes and the hosting of the UNWTO General Assembly by Zimbabwe and Zambia next year has resulted in a flurry of applications for operating licences by a number of prospective airlines.

Al-Rahmah, however, said Emirates is fully prepared for the impending intense competition from a number of airlines such as British Airways, KLM and SA Express that will be operating in Zimbabwe soon.

“Emirates believes that competition is healthy, both for the industry and consumers. We’ve thoroughly researched Harare and we are confident that the strong product offering we have across our network, combined with our enviable reputation for service excellence, will stand us in good stead,” he said.

Early this year, Air Zimbabwe was forced to terminate international and regional flights to avoid its planes being impounded by creditors.

In March, the government took a decision to unbundle Air Zimbabwe Holdings into two entities — Air Zimbabwe Private Limited and National Handling Services — but there seems to be no solution in sight to the national carrier’s woes. - John Kachembere

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