While it may seem as if things could not get much worse for the airline, they have.
Last week, the troubled Air Zimbabwe’s problems took a turn worse as the International Air Transit Association (IATA) ceased allowing travel agents to book flights on the airline over an unpaid US$280,000 debt. According to Anthony Concil, IATA’s Director of Corporate Communications, IATA officially notified more than 60,000 travel agents, worldwide, on the 12th of May, with the suspension of ticket sales going into effect immediately.
Yesterday, less than a week after IATA halted travel agents from selling tickets on Air Zimbabwe flights, the airline suffered another significant setback, as Zambezi Airlines repossessed a Boeing 737-5Y0 it had leased to Air Zimbabwe right out from under the airlines’ nose. The repossession of the 737 was made more embarrassing to the airline, and government, as it occurred at Harare International Airport, where Air Zimbabwe is based.
Zambezi Airlines’ leased Boeing 737-5Y0 joined Air Zimbabwe’s fleet just two months ago, with the airline paying a deposit of US$1,800,000 towards the lease. However since the start of the lease, Air Zimbabwe had failed to make additional contractual payments of US$460,000, causing Zambezi Airlines to cancel the lease and take back its aircraft.
Air Zimbabwe is now left with a fleet of one viable aircraft, a Boeing 767-200, as it has removed the company’s three Boeing 737-200s from service due to requiring major maintenance overhauls. One of the airline aging 737-200s had been grounded by Zimbabwe’s Civil Aviation Authority. With no aircraft to service domestic and regional routes, and only one long haul aircraft, how long can air Zimbabwe survive?
The airline maintains it will be receiving two Airbus A340-500 ultra-long-haul aircraft in just a few weeks, however Airbus has been unable to confirm this at this time. Even if Air Zimbabwe receives its two A340-500s, which seems unlikely, how will it sell tickets internationally? How will the airline service its vital domestic and regional routes, the routes that are of the most importance to the airline’s existence?
Can an airline exist on the sheer will of a bankrupt government? This is a question that I think only time will answer …