Airzim acquires new plane

HARARE - Air Zimbabwe (Airzim) has acquired a new airplane to service domestic routes.

The national airline, seeking to turnaround fortunes following the recent appointment of a new board, said the new aircraft — Embraer ERJ-145 — will ply the Harare-Bulawayo-Victoria Falls route daily.

This comes as Airzim introduced another new 150-seater Airbus A320 on the Harare-Johannesburg route a fortnight ago.

“We have acquired this Embraer plane by way of lease with the intention to buy. They are more fuel efficient and will enable us to fly more regional routes and we hope we will be able to do that in the shortest time possible,” said Airzim spokesperson Shingai Taruvinga.

The move is expected to cut down on ballooning operational costs for domestic routes as the flag carrier has been using its 105-seater Boeing 737-200 that has less fuel efficiency and has low load factors.

Embraer is one of the world’s leading aircraft manufacturers.

The Brazilian company manufactures its ERJ range which has a seating capacity of between 37 and 50 and is meant for regional and domestic commercial airline operators.

“With looks to match its speed and comfort, the Embraer will certainly offer sleek, fast and comfortable travel to the majority of our clients,” she said.

Taruvinga said the national flag carrier will soon be taking delivery of another Embraer to boost its domestic routes ahead of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) general assembly to be held in Victoria Falls in August.

In an operations update, she said Airzim’s load factor had increased to an average of between 60 and 70 percent for the Harare–Victoria Falls route.

“We are currently targeting a load factor of between 50 to 60 percent in the short-term while a major turnaround strategy is being implemented,” Taruvinga said.

As part of Airzim’s efforts to restore viability following years of decline — precipitated by the country’s challenging economic environment — the parastatal has sent over 600 employees on forced leave.

The national airline said it was implementing a restructuring programme which will see about 307 workers being retained while over 600 are laid off to facilitate streamlining of operations.

The parastatal is aiming for optimum use of personnel for the next six months after which it will review progress in revitalisation and recapitalisation.

“The company position has been communicated to all stakeholders including the unions with whom several consultative meetings have been held,” said Taruvinga.

Airzim had 1 020 employees manning its limited route network, but the bloated workforce was bleeding the airline resulting in delayed salary payments and recurring job actions. - John Kachembere

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