EgyptAir seeks Airzim partnership

HARARE - EgyptAir, which is returning to Zimbabwean skies in June after a nine-year absence, plans to partner struggling national airline Air Zimbabwe (AirZim).

Hamdy Elghaffar, EgyptAir country general manager, said they have proposed to lease their planes to AirZim.

“We have no problem in assisting Air Zimbabwe. In fact we have asked them to use our plane for a period not exceeding eight hours to do shuttles between Harare and Johannesburg or Harare and Victoria Falls,” he told businessdaily.

The regional airline — set to fly four times a week between Harare and Cairo via Dar es Salaam, using a Boeing 737-900 — says its planes will be inactive between 9am and 9pm.

However, Elghaffar said he is yet to get a response from AirZim.

“We are still waiting to hear from them (AirZim),” he said, adding that EgyptAir had also proposed a code sharing partnership with AirZim.

Elghaffar said they had also engaged the Transport ministry.

EgyptAir was among a host of regional and international carriers to quit Zimbabwe in the last decade as the country battled a serious economic and political crisis.

Meanwhile, a coalition government between long-time rivals President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai has eased political tensions and stabilised the economy.

The improvement has seen several global and regional carriers returning to the country, among them Emirates Airlines and KLM of the Netherlands.

Zimbabwe Tourism Authority chief operating officer Givemore Chidzidzi said the return of EgyptAir to Zimbabwe will boost tourism in the country.

“One of the major components for the success of tourism is air accessibility. With EgyptAir coming to Zimbabwe it means the country will be linked to other international markets,” he said.

Chidzidzi noted that Cairo was the main aviation hub for North Africa, the Middle East and much of the eastern Mediterranean.

EgyptAir serves 17 African destinations and 20 in Europe, including London.

Bassem Khalil Egyptian Ambassador to Zimbabwe expressed confidence in the viability of the new routes to be taken by EgyptAir.

“This is one of the targets that I set myself when I assumed my post in September last year. I am a firm believer that relations of any kind between nations start with the establishment of a direct, low-cost transport link,” he said adding that the coming in of EgyptAir will enhance  economic, political and cultural relations.

The ambassador predicted the return of EgyptAir would offer the diplomatic community an alternative airline to take them to various destinations in Africa and abroad.

Munesu Munodawafa, Transport ministry’s permanent secretary said EgyptAir’s return came at an opportune time when Zimbabwe was preparing to host the United Nations World Tourism Organisation general assembly in Victoria Falls in August.

“The return of EgyptAir has come at the right time because it has been the missing link in terms of connectivity from North Africa,” he said.

“You have also done well by making a very strategic business decision to link that connectivity with East Africa. This will help in bringing in our visitors from your part of the continent to Zimbabwe, especially during the UNWTO.”

Munodawafa challenged the tourism sector to ensure they made the best of the opportunity presented by the resumption of flights by EgyptAir to come up with packages that attract tourists to Zimbabwe.

“I would like to appeal to the tourism sector that we need to ensure that our visitors are welcome and that we extend the hospitality that we are known for as a country to them because before any investor comes to invest in the country they come as a tourist,” he said. - John Kachembere

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