LAM seeks to partner Air Zim

HARARE - LAM Mozambique, which made its first flight to Zimbabwe in 13 years on Tuesday, says it will seek a strategic partnership with Air Zimbabwe as a way of strengthening ties between the two countries.

Air Zimbabwe has for some time now been seeking a strategic partner to restore viability of its operations lost during a decade of economic meltdown.

The national flag carrier is hamstrung with an estimated debt of $149 million, $30 million of which is owed to international institutions.

Claudio Bonze, LAM commercial manager said the new flight is “here to stay” adding that he hopes the company will be able to increase its flights from the current three to seven.

“Our strategy is to expand our network throughout the Sadc region and we hope to open more destinations in the future,” he said soon after the landing of LAM’s Q400 aircraft at the Harare International Airport.

“Today we see the materialisation of our dreams, and one of our future aims is to see LAM code-share with Air Zimbabwe on different routes.”

On its arrival, the 72-seater single-class plane, which had 28 paying customers on board, received the traditional water cannon salute reserved for planes making their inaugural flights into the country.

The Bombardier will be servicing the Maputo–Harare via Beira route three times a week on Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday.

The route also includes Vilanculos, a coastal town in Inhambane province, which is Mozambique’s premier tourist resort.

Munesu Munodawafa, permanent secretary in the ministry of Transport said Air Zimbabwe must take the opportunity to partner with LAM and move swiftly to conclude the deal.

“I am advised that LAM and Air Zimbabwe are already engaging each other on a code-sharing arrangement,” he said.

“I urge Air Zimbabwe to ensure that the negotiations are concluded as soon as possible. Air Zimbabwe has the full backing of government in this regard.”

It is envisaged that by end of this month, the code sharing arrangement will be in place.

Market experts say the issue of fragmented and weak airlines pervading the African aviation industry has long been a major barrier to airline industry development in Africa which does not favour the airlines themselves or the African economy.

The smallness and hence weakness of many African airlines deny them the strength to venture into new markets or sustain adequate operations on various routes, thus making inter-connectivity a continuous nightmare for travellers.

Munodawafa said the coming in of LAM would go a long way in strengthening the relations between Zimbabwe and Mozambique, which share a rich history.

The permanent secretary said the increased connectivity and route expansion provided by the service would not only enhance trade and tourism between Zimbabwe and Mozambique but the region.

“Increased connectivity and route expansion are critical elements which are essential for the fast and frequent transportation that people and businesses in the Sadc region need today,” he said.

“This will enhance phenomenal trade flows and stimulate economic growth. Sadc as a region needs greater connectivity and cooperation to create prosperity.” - John Kachembere

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