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General News - December 2009

General News - December 2009

British Airways to resume flights to Zimbabwe - 9 December 2009

British Airways to resume flights to Zimbabwe
 9 December 2009

The airline stopped flights into Zimbabwe in September 2007, citing viability problems following a decline in tourist arrivals largely attributed to negative publicity the country was receiving and illegal sanctions imposed by the West.

Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe chief executive officer Mr David Chaota told the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Transport and Communication on Monday that the airline would resume flights between March and April next year.

"British Airways will be coming back next year between March and April and that is why we have hope (of an increase in tourist arrivals) in 2010. The coming back of BA may also bring in other airlines," he said.

The CAAZ boss said discussions with El-Etihad (formerly Emirates) Airlines from the United Arab Emirates had been concluded to pave way for their flights into the country.

Mr Chaota said the developments and the projection of an increase in tourist arrivals called for urgent upgrading of airports, especially Harare International Airport, to accommodate the expected rise in traffic.

At the height of the diplomatic standoff between Zimbabwe and major Western governments, a number of airlines withdrew their flights into the country, severely affecting the tourism and hospitality industries.

Other airlines that pulled out of Zimbabwe include Australian carrier Qantas and Germany’s Lufthansa.

Mr Chaota said CAAZ had engaged in talks with other airlines and was offering incentives to attract new flights into the country.

"We are offering free landing, free air navigation and free landing for six months as one develops that route. It does not only apply to those coming out of Zimbabwe, but also locals," he said.

At its peak in 1997, Zimbabwe recorded approximately two million tourist arrivals and the figure reached its lowest in 2003 when it recorded around 750 000 arrivals.

Meanwhile, Mr Chaota said CAAZ had not been spared by the illegal sanctions imposed on the country by the West with its major suppliers of equipment failing to provide spares and back-up services because of the trade embargo against the country.

"We have got equipment we acquired in Germany, Canada, the UK and France. The radar systems were supplied by a UK firm, the old fire tenders were bought from France, the air navigation systems from the US and Canada.

"They have told us that Zimbabwe is under sanctions and they are not in a position to do business with us because of the sanctions," he said.

Mr Chaota said they have had to approach other companies where they acquired the needed equipment at a higher cost.

He said the brain drain and a huge debt of US$150 million that reduced their credit worthiness and ability to access loans for new equipment had adversely affected CAAZ operations.

By Farirai Machivenyika – Herald 25 Nov 2009

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