Air Zim Facing Stiff Competition

Sources told Radio VOP on Wednesday that the airline was struggling to attract business on its Harare-Bulawayo-Victoria Falls route and Harare Johannesburg route.

“The situation is far from desirable, we are struggling to attract passengers. We are carrying between nine and 15 passengers on some flights,” said a source who did not want to be named. “The situation is a bit better if parliament is in session because we at least get up to 30 passengers most of whom will be parliamentarians.”

“Flying Air Zimbabwe now feels like a charter flight because of the few number of passengers on board.”

Air Zimbabwe charges up to US$ 400 for return trip to Johannesburg and US$ 200 for a round trip to Victoria Falls, amounts that many Zimbabweans whose average monthly salary is US$ 150 cannot afford.

Air Zimbabwe Chief Executive Officer, Peter Chikumba, blamed the reduced numbers to the general state of the Zimbabwean economy.

He said, “Not many Zimbabweans can afford air travel at the moment and as long as the economic situation does not improve it will be difficult for us. We are currently operating on an overdraft,” said Chikumba.

Air Zimbabwe has in the past faced several safety concerns but Chikumba said the reduced numbers have nothing to do with the airline’s safety record.

“We have a very good safety record, it’s just that we suffer from perceptions that our airlines are old therefore they are not safe,” he said.

In 2007 Air Zimbabwe grabbed the headlines for flying one passenger from Dubai to Harare after it failed to attract enough passengers on its 205 passenger jet.

Shunned by Western travellers, Air Zimbabwe has tried to make money by turning east, serving Beijing and Singapore as well as Dubai. But Zimbabwe’s poor economy and the airline’s generally creaky planes have
dissuaded customers.