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National airline Air Zimbabwe has come up with an ambitious plan to go for European Aviation Safety Agency certification and establish an aircraft maintenance centre that it hopes will become a hub for Africa. The struggling airline believes the plan, which will leverage on its human resources expertise, will allow it to diversify its revenue streams and stop relying on income from its passenger business.

Air Zimbabwe acting chief executive Edmund Makona said the national airline had already taken steps towards EASA certification and will before the end of this month invite the agency for the accreditation process to commence.

“We have taken a deliberate step to go towards European Aviation Safety Agency certification which is the certification agency for the EU countries,” Mr Makona told a parliamentary committee.

“Because of our low aviation labour rates, it will allow us to attract airlines that are registered in the EU for maintenance of their aircraft.”

As part of this ambitious plan, Mr Makona said the airline was working on a strategy to attract most of its engineers who left for greener pastures mainly to the United Arab Emirates.

“We have the best human resources in the whole of Africa and our strategy seeks to maximise on our people.

“Most importantly, we seek to recall our people from wherever they are. Most of our engineers are in the Middle East working for the Gulf Aircraft Maintenance Company,” he said.

“We will create our own Gamco in Zimbabwe becoming an aircraft maintenance centre for Africa.”

Without any financial support from Government, the sole shareholder, Air Zimbabwe is currently surviving from hand to mouth.

Meanwhile, Mr Makona said Air Zimbabwe had finally invested in a system that allows its passengers to make direct bookings on the internet as it slowly catches up with technological aancements in the aviation industry.

The system, called the Internet Booking Engine, has already been in use for years but the struggling national carrier had failed to invest in it due to financial challenges.

The IBE allows a passenger to specify their travel arrangements such as city of departure, date of departure and return as well a class of travel online.

Today, it is estimated that between 70 and 90 percent of bookings for most airlines are done using the IBE, cancelling out the role played by travel agents.

Mr Makona said the system cost $53 000 and the national airline had already paid $38 000.

“If we implement the IBE, we will get more revenue which is currently going to other players,” Makona said.

“Barring any other unforeseen circumstances by March 31, we may be able to implement the IBE.”

A further $20 000 will be required to develop a website that will be linked to the IBE.

Only three of the airline’s 10 aircraft are flying, badly affecting its profitability. Air Zimbabwe is also saddled by a $298 million debt, which it is lobbying Government to take over, and requires a further $260 million in fresh capital investment. – New Ziana.

Source : The Herald