Farayi Machamire 18 May 2017
HARARE – Flag carrier, Air Zimbabwe, plumbed to new lows on Tuesday after
it was banned from flying into Europe over safety concerns.
The latest dose of bad news to hit Air Zim comes as the debt-ridden
airline is barely managing to stay afloat, and to keep operating its
creaky aircraft – a development which has lately forced its single biggest
customer, President Robert Mugabe, to hire private jets.
At the same time, analysts told the Daily News yesterday that the European
ban was likely to further complicate Mugabe’s travelling plans to
international events there, which are not covered by the current travel
restrictions on him.
“Today, the European Commission updated the EU Air Safety List, the list
of non-European airlines that do not meet international safety standards,
and are therefore subject to an operating ban or operational restrictions
within the European Union.
“Following today’s update, a total of 181 airlines are banned from EU
skies: 174 airlines certified in 16 States, due to a lack of safety
oversight by the aviation authorities from these States.
“The airlines Med-View (Nigeria), Mustique Airways (St. Vincent and the
Grenadines), Aviation Company Urga (Ukraine) and Air Zimbabwe (Zimbabwe)
were added to the list due to unaddressed safety deficiencies that were
detected by the European Aviation Safety Agency during the assessment for
a third country operator authorisation,” the EU announced on Tuesday.
Immediately after the ban was announced, Britain followed through with a
warning to its citizens, urging them not to use Air Zimbabwe.
“Air Zimbabwe has been refused permission to operate flights to the EU
because the airline has been unable to demonstrate that it complies with
international air safety standards.
“British government employees travelling to and within Zimbabwe have been
advised to use carriers that aren’t subject to the EU operating ban,” the
British Embassy said in a travel alert posted on its website.
The badly mismanaged Air Zimbabwe has been battling myriad problems over
the years, including failing to service its debt.
The flag carrier is also said to be losing up to $3 million a month, and
is saddled with a $300 million declared debt.
The extent of the rot devouring Air Zimbabwe was exposed in March when
Mugabe was forced to hire a private jet for his overseas travels, after it
emerged that the poorly-performing national carrier had failed to service
As a result, Mugabe had to lease a private jet from Bahrain, which he used
to travel to Singapore and Ghana.
Air Zim’s fleet comprises two Boeing 767s, three 737s, three MA60s and two
Airbus A320s. However, only four of those are flying: one airbus, one
Boeing 767, one 737 and an MA60.
The national carrier has also over the past three decades struggled to
shake-off claims of corruption and ineptitude, which has led to the
dismissals of several of its boards and senior managers.
Last month the beleaguered airline was a subject of bad jokes after it was
involved in an embarrassing ticketing fiasco which saw it issuing
handwritten boarding tickets on its international and domestic routes.
This was despite the global aviation industry moving to electronic
ticketing, in line with latest standards approved by the International Air
Transport Association (IATA), whose policy is to ensure airline safety,
security and efficiency.