Zambian Airline Targets AirZim Pilots

The strike by Air Zimbabwe pilots entered its second month this week with no solution in site.

Zambezi Airlines, which leased aircraft to Air Zimbabwe when the pilots first went on strike early this year said it needs extra pilots to fly three Boeing 735-500 aircraft so that it can cover new routes.

“It is for this reason that the airline recently placed advertisements for additional captains and first officers in Zambia and several neighbouring countries, including Zimbabwe,” Zambezi Airlines commercial director Sidney Siwabamundi told The Post newspaper of Zambia.

The airline has reportedly increased its flights to Lumbumbashi in the Democratic Republic of Congo from three to six per week.

Sawabamundi defended the plans to look for pilots from outside Zambia saying all locals had been absorbed.

“The question of ignoring Zambian professionals does not arise as the airline has hired most of the available crew, some of who the airline has upgraded from propeller to jet aircraft rating at a significant cost through training outside the country,” he said.

Finance Minister Tendai Biti says government will not bail out Air Zimbabwe this time around because there is no money.

Air Zimbabwe operates daily flights between Harare and Johannesburg and regular flights to London and Beijing.

The airline is saddled with a US$100 million debt.

Early this year it was suspended by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) for failing to pay affiliation fees.

Air Zimbabwe’s troubles started when the country’s inflation reached record levels before President Robert Mugabe formed a unity government in 2009.

During that time it was forced to charge passengers using the inflation ravaged Zimbabwean dollar, which made it difficult for it to recoup running costs.