As Air Zimbabwe continued to discuss the acquisition of the Airbus A340 aircraft over the past year, there were cracks in the story, such as the variant of aircraft they’d be receiving, at times stating the aircraft were two be A340-200s, other times A340-600s and more often than not A340-500s. Beyond the inconsistent references to the Airbuses the airline was supposedly waiting on, other questions arose, such as how an airline in such financial disrepair could afford the two A340s and how they would broker the deal for the aircraft given the current U.S. and European Sanctions preventing Air Zimbabwe from directly purchasing the planes.
Air Zimbabwe’s propaganda regarding the Airbus A340s joining its fleet picked up pace in just before the 2010 Farnborough Air Show, when the airline stated it expected the first A340 to join the fleet on 29th of September 2010 and start service between Harare and London on the 25h of October. Along with the original statements from the airline regarding the aircraft joining the fleet, Air Zimbabwe let it be known that engineers and flight crews were working directly with Airbus to train for the new aircraft arrivals, despite Airbus adamantly stating they were not training any of Air Zimbabwe’s staff.
To get around U.S. and European Union Sanctions, Air Zimbabwe was allegedly using a Chinese energy firm to broker the deal, possibly trading on Zimbabwe’s natural resources of platinum, diamonds and metallurgical-grade chromite instead of hard currency.
As the announced arrival dates for the Airbus A340s came and went, and were pushed back to June 2011 and July 2011, Air Zimbabwe continued its downward spiral, including having leased aircraft repossessed, Lufthansa Technic withholding one of the airline’s Boeing 767 engines (grounding one of their two 767s) and IATA ceasing to allow more than 60,000 travel agents around the world to sell tickets on Air Zimbabwe flights. With all of this the likelihood of the airline acquiring two Airbus A340s seemed more and more like a dream than a reality.
On the 18th of May 2011 I enquired about the two aircraft directly with Airbus and on the 19th of May I was informed, “Airbus has no order from Air Zimbabwe and is not aware of any leased aircraft for Air Zimbabwe.” Even as Airbus denied any knowledge of any aircraft destined for Air Zimbabwe, the airline persisted in its claims that the aircraft were at Airbus’s headquarters in Toulouse, France being prepared for delivery, and would be joining the fleet in the summer of 2011 … which brings us to last week when the airline changed its tune …
Now, after more than a year of discussing the pending arrival of two Airbus A340s, Air Zimbabwe’s Chairman of the Board, Jonathan Kadzura, has done an about-face stating “I don’t know anything about the purchase of new planes; that’s absolute nonsense.” and “How can the airline afford to purchase new aircraft when you all know the problems at Air Zimbabwe?” It seems hard to believe that Mr. Kadzura was unaware of propaganda being distributed by his own airline regarding Air Zimbabwe’s supposed acquisition of the Airbus aircraft, as his airline was consistently feeding the stories to the media and newspapers in Zimbabwe have been writing around it for more than a year. As for how could the airline afford to purchase new aircraft … well that’s been the number one question all along.
Presently Air Zimbabwe appears to be an airline surviving solely on political will. The airline exists with an almost entirely grounded fleet, unpaid pilots who are constantly on strike and the inability to acquire aircraft due to political and financial complications. As the airline battles for its integrity as a political tool, rather than as business, the charade of the Airbus A340s comes to an end.