Oliver Kazunga, Acting Business Editor
NATIONAL airline, Air Zimbabwe is this year focusing on route augmentation and fleet expansion as it moves to promote tourism and trade.

In a statement, the airline which was placed under reconstruction in terms of the State-Indebted and Insolvent Companies Act in 2018, described 2020 as a “tough and tumultuous year” due to the adverse impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We look back at 2020, a tough and tumultuous year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, with great appreciation and gratitude for all the support, feedback and engagements we have had with you our valued customers.

“Our focus in 2021 is fleet augmentation, route expansion and service delivery,” said Air Zimbabwe acting chief executive officer Mr Joseph Makonese.

The parastatal has been declared technically insolvent and was saddled with a US$341 million debt overhang, 92 percent of which was owed to local creditors.

In the past, the airline as part of its fleet augmentation programme, has acquired aircrafts such as the 282-seater Boeing 777-200ER and ERJ145.

“While there have been delays in the deployment into service of the ERJ145 (Z-WPQ), we expect the aircraft to be serviceable by the end of January 2021.

“We are in the process of acquiring a second ERJ145 for deployment into service in the first half of 2021,” said Mr Makonese.

He said the deployment of the aircrafts would allow Air Zimbabwe to initially introduce Harare-Johannesburg destination twice daily and the Johannesburg-Bulawayo route four times per week.

“Tourists and traders to Dar es Salaam will also have the convenience to connect between Harare-Bulawayo-Victoria Falls-Dar es Salaam with a return on the same day three times weekly.

“Domestic flights will also be increased to promote the tourism industry through our Flame Lily packages,” he said.

Mr Makonese said regional expansion is poised with the proposed addition of Lusaka, Lubumbashi and Kinshasa destinations as the year progresses.

Though scheduled operations were suspended globally from the end of the first quarter in 2020 due to the Covid-19-induced travel restrictions, Mr Makonese said, Air Zimbabwe was able to operate cargo and repatriation flights.

The airline is one of the State enterprises and parastatals the Government has earmarked for turnaround. — @okazunga.