HARARE – Zimbabwe’s travelling public is scrambling to secure Emirates tickets, some booking as far ahead as August 2019 for speculative reasons.
Emirates, is among the few major airlines which have not yet withdrawn full ticketing in Zimbabwe after British Airways (BA) — operated by Comair — joined a long list of air travel providers who have suspended all ticketing from Zimbabwe.
In a statement yesterday, BA said Zimbabwe had become an unprofitable ticket-issuing destination.
“In light of the ongoing difficulties experienced in foreign currency repatriation, Comair regrets to inform our trade partners that British Airways operated by Comair is temporarily limiting distribution of ticketing authority in the Zimbabwe market,” BA said.
Kenyan Airways was the first airline to suspend all ticketing from Zimbabwe, citing foreign currency shortages.
The airline said it was experiencing increasing foreign currency repatriation difficulties since 2016 which had forced it to temporarily suspend the distribution of ticketing authority in the Zimbabwe market.
Board of Airlines Representatives chairperson Winnie Muchanyuka said the lack of repatriation of remittances had blighted fiscal operations of airlines.
International airlines are owed $136 million in repatriation debt.
“Our major concern is that whatever we are holding here is not in our cash flows. You must remember we are operating in a global environment so that money needs to flow,” she said.
“As different entities, we are constituted differently, some decisions will be more drastic than others.”
Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) chief executive officer Karikoga Kaseke said he was aware of the challenges faced by airlines in accessing their foreign currency, adding that the authority and Tourism minister Prisca Mupfumira were seized with the matter which they would escalate with the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe.
“The issue of remittances is a disturbing issue to all of us from the minister. When the airlines don’t now accept payment, in whatever currency we call our local currency, because we believed all along our local currency was US dollar.
“But it’s now becoming clear that there is a big difference between our local currency and the US dollar because airlines are not accepting it. We know what is happening in the shops, they are not accepting it,” said Kaseke.
He said there was now a real threat that other airlines could follow suit, leaving business and travellers stranded.
“It’s devastating on us as a destination. For one it doesn’t give the destination the brand that it should maintain in the international market.
“It really affects our brand and we are concerned. We understand other airlines are following what Kenya Airways has done,” he said.
This comes as Real Time Gross Settlement balances continued to devalue on the parallel market.