Thursday, March 24, 2011

Air Zimbabwe pilots strike.

Air Zimbabwe appealed to its striking pilots to return to work as they walk-out, which began on Tuesday, entered a third straight day on Thursday, disrupting travel plans for hundreds of its domestic and international customers.
The state-owned airline was forced to cancel its Harare-London flights on Wednesday, and the return flight departing London Gatwick on Thursday evening, as pilots stayed away from work for the second time in less than six months over a pay dispute.
Pilots, engineers and cabin crew say they are owed as much as US$9 million by Air Zimbabwe accrued over several years. They say financial commitments made to them by the government during the last strike have not been met.
But airline bosses say the struggling company, burdened with an ageing fleet, is incapable of paying them.
“We lost a lot of business and confidence the last time they went on strike. We were only beginning to pick up business and confidence from travellers and they strike, it’s really unfortunate," said Air Zimbabwe chairman Jonathan Kadzura. "I would like to apologise to our travellers for the inconvenience."
"The only way forward is for them to get back to work because there is no money, that is the reality,” added Kadzura. “I do not have the money and I hope they understand and get back to work because the fact of the matter is that the airline does not have the money at the moment.”
The strike on Tuesday disrupted Air Zimbabwe domestic and regional flights, and by Wednesday it was affecting overseas travellers with the cancellation of its cash-cow flight to London.
Calistus Mpofu, whose wife and child were due to fly out of Harare for London on Wednesday evening, said she was unaware her flight was cancelled until she arrived at the airport.
“Air Zimbabwe have been unhelpful because they said the tickets were not bought directly from them. I have had to rebook my family on Ethiopian Airways at an extra cost of £1,300. As it stands, we don’t know whether Air Zimbabwe will refund us,” Mpofu, a social worker from Cardiff, told New
But Air Zimbabwe’s General Manager for Europe David Mwenga said refunds would be offered to customers who request them.
“When tickets are bought directly from Air Zimbabwe, we pay back the customers by cheque, it’s a quick process. But when a ticket is bought from a travel agent, it’s a lengthier process and we pay back the travel agent not the traveller. It's an industry practice,” Mwenga said.
“We are trying our best to keep our customers informed because as it stands, we have an open-ended strike which no-one knows when it will end.”

Apart from the Harare-London route, Air Zimbabwe services regional routes including Harare-South Africa, Harare-Zambia and Harare-Democratic Republic of Congo. Every Friday, Air Zimbabwe flies to China via Malaysia, the plane turning back and arriving in Harare on Sunday.