THE recently signed Zimbabwe- South Africa Bi-lateral Air Services Agreement signifies the death knell for the struggling national carrier, Air Zimbabwe, as it opens it to unlimited competition from South African Airways (SAA) analysts said.
Source: New Zim-SA air services pact spells doom for AirZim – NewsDay Zimbabwe November 14, 2016
BY PAIDAMOYO MUZULU
Zimbabwe and South Africa signed the agreement during the inaugural Bi-National Commission between the two neighbours. In terms of the agreement, each airline will now enjoy as many as 85 flying frequencies per week into each other’s territory.
MDC-T legislator, Eddie Cross said Air Zimbabwe will not survive the competition.
“Air Zimbabwe is not in a state to compete against anyone. It has insufficient aircraft to provide a reliable service,” he said.
Cross said that its survival is hinged on it getting a strategic partner.
“The national airline needs to enter into a strategic partnership with an operating airline to continue flying, otherwise it can’t stand the competition,” he said.
Economist, Maxwell Saungweme said Air Zimbabwe’s demise could be hastened if SAA adopted low airfares.
“AirZim and other airlines will be affected if SAA starts charging low fares or even fares below what the other airlines are charging. Otherwise I don’t see anything changing,” he said.
Saungweme said the national carrier would continue to survive on government subsidies.
“The airline has been operating on huge government subsidies and if sustainability, profitability and self-sufficiency were part of its business model by now it should have stopped flying that route.”
SAA now has permission to fly directly into Harare International Airport, Bulawayo International Airport and the Victoria Falls International Airport.
Ironically, the three airports form the golden triangle and profitable routes in Zimbabwe.
Last week, the government was complaining about South Africa marketing Victoria Falls as its resort to international tourists.
Now with more direct flights, analysts argue South Africa would reap all the tourists’ dollars.
Transport minister Joram Gumbo confirmed that the recently signed agreement increases the frequencies, but argued the national airline would survive.
“We just agreed to increase frequencies to 85 per week. These include both cargo and commercial flights. The agreement is that those with the capacity should do so and we could not wait to sign the agreement until our airline was strong,” he said.
AirZim board chairperson, Chipo Dyanda said she was not aware of the details of the agreement.
“I have not had sight of it (agreement). You are better off talking to the chief executive officer, (Ripton) Muzenda,” she said.
However, Muzenda refused to comment over the phone and requested to have the questions emailed to him.
At the time of going to print, Muzenda had not responded to questions sent to him on Wednesday.
Zimbabwe currently has only four flying aircraft against SAA’s over 50.
SAA also has advantage that they have a variety of planes to suit the routes, while AirZim has B737, B767 and A320, which may be unprofitable if traffic is thin.
AirZim’s woes are further compounded by the licensing of low cost airlines such as FastJet and Rainbow Airlines, which are also operating on the domestic scene.