Air Zimbabwe has stated its clear ambitions to begin flying to Europe again soon. At a meeting last Wednesday, acting CEO Joseph Makonise told reporters that the airline plans to begin European operations in the fourth quarter of 2020, pending the ban against it being lifted by the EASA.
Air Zim coming to Europe in late 2020
Speaking at the Aviation Stakeholders Breakfast Meeting in Harare last week, Air Zimbabwe’s acting CEO was positive about the future of the airline. Mr Joseph Makonise spoke out at the meeting about their plans for Air Zimbabwe over the coming year. Bulawayo 24 reports that Mr Makonise said,
“We went through the national audit, we lost the IASA certification in 2016. We went for re-examination. We have completed this and very soon we should be getting our results before the end of the year. Once we get that approval then we are certain to start operations in Europe. We are looking at the last quarter of 2020.
Air Zimbabwe has been banned from Europe since 2017. In May that year, the European Commission added it to the list of airlines barred from operating in the European Union, stating that this was “due to unaddressed safety deficiencies that were detected by the European Safety Agency”.
The last time Air Zimbabwe flew to Europe was in 2012, when it discontinued its flights to London. This followed the seizure of one of its Boeing planes at Gatwick over an unpaid debt.
Air Zimbabwe has a colorful history, to say the least. From allegations of corruption and mismanagement to a decade of loss-making operations, Air Zim has served up something of an African soap opera to those keeping an eye on it.
Despite reports that the airline is in the process of acquiring two Boeing 777s from Malaysia Airlines, financially the airline is still in a state. Just last month it was banned from South African airports over an unpaid debt, although that situation does seem to have resolved itself now.
More recently, there have been allegations of further issues, including some saying that the airline was supplying handwritten boarding passes. However, the airline called this out as fake news, saying a ground handling company produces boarding passes electronically at all times.
**The JNB/VFA route has not been re-introduced yet thus not on current schedule. An official announcement will be made once route is operational.
** The flight number cited does not exist on our UM flight codes for the mentioned JNB/VFA route.
Flying just one plane
Right now, the airline is limping along with not much to be happy for. Of the three planes it has, Nehanda Radio reports that it is flying just one. The other two are grounded over regulatory issues. The report quotes Mr Makonise as saying that,
“We have got one aircraft, you can start the engine, everything is working perfectly, but because this is a heavily-regulated industry we have to comply.
“We were supposed to do certain things to the aircraft and we have not done it and we parked it. We cannot fly it, we have to comply. We ran short of equipment. We have got equipment lying idle in South Africa. We are using one plane only, a very inappropriate aircraft.
“We could not stop our operations completely, being the only airline in the country. We believe in accordance to our six-year strategic plan if we get the right equipment, then we should be able to spruce up our operations. We took delivery of an Embraer on 30 April. It has not flown, we are also affected by sanctions, there is a know your customer approval. Those are issues beyond our control.”
The airline is currently under ‘reconstruction’, having had its $392m of debt ring-fenced. This means the airline can begin to rebuild its reputation, routes and network without needing to service this debt, at least for the time being. However, with only one plane in action and multiple regulatory hurdles to overcome, there’s a long way to go before we’ll be seeing Air Zim at European airports.