For nearly a year the writing has been on the wall that Air Zimbabwe’s days were numbered.
In May 2011 the airline struggled to survive amid sanctions imposed by the European Union, at the same time the airline barely managed to keep it’s pair of Boeing 767-200s in flight, after nearly having one of it’s four 767-200 engines auctioned off by Lufthansa Technic over an unpaid debt.
As Air Zimbabwe struggled to keep its’ aging fleet of Boeing 737-200s in service, avoid having its aircraft seized in South Africa, and get its 767-200 engine out of hock, the airline appeared publicly optimistic about its future, and began making claims that it would be acquiring two ultra long haul Airbus A340-500s. The problem with the airline’s statements is that they were not rooted in reality, and in fact Airbus made it clear no aircraft were to be delivered to Air Zimbabwe.
Just when it seemed things couldn’t be any worse for Air Zimbabwe, and its future seemed to be on the precipice of collapse, things started to further unravel for the airline. On the 12th of May 2011 the International Air Transit Association (IATA) halted all ticket sales for the airline, notifying more than 60,000 travel agents around the world that tickets could no longer be sold for Air Zimbabwe flights. The airline’s inability to sell tickets through IATA travel agents, or interline with other carriers, was an insurmountable financial blow, crippling the airline beyond repair.
Immediately following IATA’s ceasing of ticket sales for the airline, on the 17th of May, Zambezi Airlines repossessed a Boeing 737-5Y0 right out from under the airline at its home airport, Harare International Airport. The repossession of the aircraft, just two months after it had joined the fleet, was not only problematic for Air Zimbabwe, but political embarrassing for the Zimbabwe Civil Aviation Authority.
In September 2011, facing increasing internal and external struggles, economically and financially, Air Zimbabwe cracks in the airline’s story about future growth and expansion began to surface, causing the company to deny its own claims of fleet expansion. With pressure from competitors seeking to add routes to Harare, pilots demanding unpaid salaries and a crumbling short haul fleet, Air Zimbabwe went to the local press claiming it had never stated it would be receiving two Airbus A340-500 aircraft, despite its own statements detailing the arrival of the new aircraft, then following up on the delay of the new aircraft and revealing the aircraft would be leased through an unnamed Chinese energy firm.
Despite many factors tearing Air Zimbabwe apart and finical crisis, including even its own government was cutting off its funding, the airline miraculously continued flying.
In December 2011 Air Zimbabwe’s fleet continued to shrink, first with a Boeing 737-2N0 being grounded at Johannesburg’s O.R. Tambo International Airport by Bid Air over US$500,000 in unpaid invoices for ground handling services. The airline’s financial dispute with Bid Air caused the airline to stop serving its South Africa destinations.
With Air Zimbabwe struggling to move forward after its problems in South Africa, one of Air Zimbabwe’s Boeing 767-2N0/ERs was seized on the 12th of December 2011 at London’s Gatwick Airport, by American General Supplies over a debt of US$1,200,000 for aircraft spares. The airline sought the money from the Zimbabwe Treasury Department, but was rejected by the very government that owned it, leaving the airline unable to secure additionally, non-governmental sources, for funding.
By the end of December 2011 Air Zimbabwe was flying a fleet of three aircraft, with an average age of 22 years old and was in debt for US$140,000,000 … yet somehow the airline continued to fly … that is until last week.
As of Friday the 24th of February 2012 Air Zimbabwe is no more. Problem after problem, financial crisis after financial crisis, sanctions, groundings, repossessions, seizures and ceasing of tickets sales finally caught up with Air Zimbabwe.
The Government is already looking at ways to build a new national airline, but political and economic roadblocks are likely to prevent its creation any time soon.