Fresh Air grounded

HARARE - Zimbabwean budget airline, Fresh Air which launched its flights on Friday has been grounded following the filling of liquidation by 1time Airline its technical partner.

The Zimbabwean registered low cost airline had entered into a joint venture agreement with the South African carrier in which its aircraft would be used to serve the Fresh Air route.

“We are shocked about the developments as we were not aware that 1time would file for liquidation. We actually discovered this when we landed after our first flight,” Fresh Air commercial director Matipedza Karashe said.

He said Fresh Air had entered into a one year lease with 1time for a 132 seater MD87 aircraft.

“We had pulled all our resources towards that and had received all the necessary regulatory approval for our flights, so this is really a setback,” Karashe said.

“Our contingent measures are that we expect to re-start our operations within the next 21 working days.”
He however said the airlines successfully carried out the flight to Victoria Falls from Johannesburg’s OR Tambo International Airport.

“We had 102 passengers when we landed and returned with 126 passengers,” Karashe said.

The airline maiden flight was in August from Johannesburg to   Harare and later proceeded to Victoria Falls.

1time had terminated its Livingstone flight in favour of flights to be operated by Fresh Air between Johannesburg and Victoria Falls Airport.

The airline has already cut two of its aircraft and is now operating eight aircrafts and is reported to be in debt of around R300 million.

Fresh Air has officially acquired the traffic rights to commence operations and has announced the new route schedule, which as it stands, includes three weekly flights from OR Tambo International Airport.

The airline is also looking at getting licences for more Zimbabwean routes and regional routes within Sadc FreshAir  is 51 percent owned by Nu.Com (Pvt) Ltd of Zimbabwe.

International and regional airlines have been literally scrambling to ply the Zimbabwean route in the absence of Air Zimbabwe.

Earlier this year, Air Namibia launched a Harare-Windhoek route, while Emirates, based in Dubai, has started servicing the Lusaka (Zambia)-Harare-route.

KLM and Mozambique’s Lam launched their flights on Wednesday after suspending their flights into the country.

Air Tanzania is expected start on a direct route to Zimbabwe before the end of the year.

Meanwhile hundreds of passengers were left stranded on Friday as bankrupt airline 1time cancelled all flights.

A 1time executive confirmed to Fin24 that the airline’s final flight was at 15:00hrs on Friday, and that no further flights were scheduled.

The move came after the low-cost airline filed for liquidation after a final meeting with shareholders on Friday afternoon.

The order was given shortly before 3pm.

Speaking to stranded passengers at Cape Town International Airport, it became clear to Fin24 that airline staff were unaware of the talks and the decision to file for liquidation.

“Just after three, we were all still queuing when we were told there won’t be any more flights,” one passenger said.

“It’s so sad. All the staff have also lost their jobs,” said the passenger, who did not want to be named.
It is unclear at the moment what will happen to staff or where ticket holders should go, as the 1time website is also down.

1time was hoping to capitalise on a bumper festive season, but this is sadly not to be. Airlines make most of their money over the December period when margins are higher as demand increases.

1time has been under business rescue for a few months under the sterling leadership of new CEO Blacky Komani.

The airline owes various institutions, including Airports Company South Africa, about R350 million.

Following shortly after the liquidation of Velvet Sky, this comes as a blow to South African consumers. — Fin24

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