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Air Zimbabwe said yesterday it is keen to expand its regional and international route network but is being bogged down by its small fleet and inability to acquire new craft. The national carrier has indicated that it required $260 million in fresh capital and $300 million debt relief to breathe new life into its operations.

Air Zimbabwe acting chief executive Mr Edmund Makona told journalists the national airline only had four aircraft currently in service, operating local and regional routes.

“We are in a haste to grow our route network but what we want is also determined by what we got,” Mr Makona said.

“Very soon we will be spreading our wings to the east, to the west and into the region,” he added, without mentioning specifics new routes. Air Zimbabwe currently flies from Harare to Johannesburg, South Africa and is also servicing three local routes, Bulawayo, Victoria Falls and Kariba.

Mr Makona said the airline also had plans to introduce other local routes which included Buffalo Range in the lowveld.

Some of the local routes, he said, had been introduced to promote local tourism.

Mr Makona said a planned introduction of a leased Airbus A320 would allow the airline to widen its route network.

“Some routes will require substantial capital investments so that we can continue to sustain them without getting a return on investment for some months,” the Air Zim boss said. The airbus, currently being serviced at South African Airways Technical, is expected in the country before the end of the month, he said.

Meanwhile, Mr Makona said the airline had invested about $46 000 in revamping its process shop as part of its revenue enhancement measures.

“At its peak, the shop used to generate about 25 percent of the airline revenue,” said aircraft maintenance manager, Joseph Makonise.

“A lot of companies in the mining and motoring industry which were sending their equipment to South Africa for electroplating are now sending it here,” he said.

The shop is expected to generate revenues of up to $60 000 a month.

Makona said Air Zimbabwe was also looking at using its training school as a revenue earning centre. “The school stopped its apprenticeship programme four years ago but it has been resuscitated and currently has 46 students in their first year of the four year training course,” he said.

Previously the school trained students from Uganda, Namibia and Malawi.

New Ziana

Source : The Herald