The Sunday News
Prosper Ndlovu in Dubai, UAE
NATIONAL airline, Air Zimbabwe, expects to rejoin the International Air Transport Association (IATA) within the next three months, which will enhance the company’s prospects to expand international route network and tap into global partnerships, acting chief executive officer, Mr Tafadzwa Zaza said.
IATA is on record acknowledging that Zimbabwe was making progress on reducing the estimated US$140 million debt that is owed under blocked funds that could not be repatriated from ticket sales, cargo space and other regulated activities.
Due to this hurdle the country is not a member of the IATA Clearing House (ICH), a critical global enabler for the aviation business, which provides fast, secure and cost effective billing and settlement services in multiple currencies for the air transport industry.
IATA achieves this through, among others, applying the principles of set-off/netting thus reducing cost, risk and increasing speed.
The facility further also offers a dispute mechanism of billings and protection in case of default, bankruptcy and cessation of operations.
“The process is under way to rejoin IATA, which I think in the next three months we should be a member of the IATA Clearing House,” said Mr Zaza.
“Once we are a member we will be able to get into these alliances as well as business sharing models with other airlines so that we can have our passengers, for example, travelling all the way to Harare or German or Dubai without a hassle.
We will also be able to sell tickets for our passengers here in Dubai or connect passengers from here all the way to Victoria Falls. So, it’s very critical to join the IATA Clearing House to be able to contribute to the aviation global distribution system. Right now it’s difficult to pick us on the system since we are not a member.”
Mr Zaza was part of the country’s delegation that recently visited Dubai to engage with potential investors and participated at the infrastructure and tourism finance conference that was organised on the sidelines of the country’s participation at the on-going world Expo 2020 Dubai.
While being focused on consolidating domestic and international business, Mr Zaza said the airline was keen to improve its fleet and upgrade its key infrastructure to be able to offer quality customer-centric services.
“With the Government support we are going to expand and increase our frequency and we are open to engaging investors that will come and assist either with equipment or financially.
We have got the long haul 777 aircraft but we are not in a position to operate them now before we consolidate on the domestic or regional.
So, as a short-term plan we want to lease those aircraft either as wet lease or dry lease and we invite investors interested in those or we work together.
The long-term plan is to convert either one or all of them into cargo aircraft.”
On the domestic front, Mr Zaza said Air Zimbabwe was ready for strategic partnerships on local air travel with potential suitors that operate smaller aircraft to service areas that cannot be accessed by larger aircraft.
“Anyone who feels they can be part of this is very welcome. There are also opportunities for travel and accommodation and other package activities.
Air Zimbabwe is one of the airlines in Africa with one of the best infrastructure for technical maintenance and we invested so much in this area in terms of hangers.
Our hangers can accommodate the Boeing 747 and Airbus 340 and its one of the biggest in Africa.
We have got the capabilities to do maintenance works on aircraft for regional clients and we have a well-trained team and infrastructure and will be happy to have investors to modernise this.”
Mr Zaza also said the national was ready to partner with potential investors towards improving its training facilities and maintenance services for other airlines that fly into Africa.