Saturday, July 16, 2011

Harare Airport to have 'longest runway in Africa'

THE Harare International Airport will boast Africa’s longest runway by December as the country seeks to lure major international airlines, officials said on Monday.
In addition to the 5km runway costing US$30 million, the Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe (CAAZ) is also upgrading the Victoria Falls Airport runway which will give it capacity to land large aircraft like the Airbus.
CAAZ CEO David Chawota said they also expect work on the new Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo International Airport terminal building in Bulawayo to be complete within months as the country moves to reposition itself as a major tourist destination.
Finance Minister Tendai Biti went on a tour of the new Harare International Airport runway which is being constructed by local firm, Bitumen Construction Services.
He said: “The airport is the gateway to Zimbabwe and it is important to have first class, modern facilities.”
CAAZ is also upgrading information display systems at the Harare International Airport, along with surveillance and security systems equipment installed in 1992. A parliamentary report concluded last year that the facilities were “not fit for purpose”.
Biti stepped in to provide funding for the infrastructure projects forcing CAAZ to shelve plans for an Aviation Infrastructure Development Fund (AIDF) levy which would have seen domestic travellers charged US$10 and international passengers US$30.
CAAZ was aiming to raise US$400 million from the levy for the rehabilitation of airport infrastructure.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Air Zimbabwe struggling for survival

Air Zimbabwe is struggling for survival as the airline requires at least US$20 million to keep operations running as reported recently.  Transport, Communications and Infrastructure Development Minister Nicholas Goche on Monday said the money would be used to cover the costs of fuel and other expenses, according to Zimbabwe's Herald newspaper. The amount did not include US$8 million for retrenchment packages and other expenses.  "If we get a minimum of US$20 million, that would be enough for the airline to clear its short term expenses like buying fuel when they want to fly while we, as shareholders, are looking for other strategies to ensure they will remain viable," he said.  Goche noted that, "it is very difficult to attract an investor because of its balance sheet and debt and there is still no strategic partner that has come to the rescue of Air Zimbabwe." "The Air Zimbabwe balance sheet is very bad and not attractive to anyone. The revenue generated by the company does not match the overheads," Goche told local media recently.  VOA reported that experts have dismissed Goche's figure, saying that the money would not be enough to save the airline. Another problem is that the government cannot spare US$20 million to rescue Air Zimbabwe as it is on a shoestring budget and already sliding into deficit.  Aviation expert Guy Leitch of South Africa's Fly Magazine told VOA that Goche's proposals to the parliamentary transport committee do not make sense.  Some good news came for the airline on June 10 when Zimbabwe's civil aviation authority (CAAZ) allowed Air Zimbabwe's three Boeing 737-200s to take to the air again. They were grounded in April after the CAAZ said they had reached their flying limits. The aircraft serviced the Harare-China and Harare-London routes.  Nevertheless, the national carrier remains in dire straits as it has more than US$100 million of debt.  Air Zimbabwe has been hit by a number of crises recently. Air Zimbabwe's flights came to a halt for a week starting May 18 as the aircraft it was leasing from Zambezi Airlines was withdrawn over an unpaid US$460 000 debt. In March Air Zimbabwe leased a Boeing 737-500 from Zambia's Zambezi Airlines.  On May 15 the International Air Transport Association (IATA) suspended Air Zimbabwe from flight booking services as Air Zimbabwe had not paid US$280 000 of the debt it owes the organisation. Air Zimbabwe continued flying, using its own booking facilities. More than 50 percent of the airline's customers book through travel agents.  Air Zimbabwe is crippled with more than US$100 million of debt, some of it accrued from a nearly month long strike between March 22 and April 20, the second to hit the carrier in the last year. Pilots were protesting unpaid salaries and allowances dating back to February last year, amounting to approximately US$9 million.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Air Zimbabwe ready to fly again

Zimbabwe’s troubled airliner will Tuesday resume local and regional flights after one of its three planes that were grounded in April over safety concerns, was certified fit to return to the skies.
The Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe (CAAZ) grounded Air Zimbabwe’s three Boeing 737-200 planes, insisting that they had reached the end of their economic life span.
The debt ridden national carrier was forced to stop servicing local routes and entered an agreement with a Zambian private airline to ply regional routes.
But the deal crumbled a month ago after Air Zimbabwe failed to pay $460,000 for the aircraft it leased from Zambezi Airlines.
Mr David Chihota, the CAAZ chief executive officer, said the remaining two aircraft will be cleared in the next few weeks.
“The three 737-200 planes that have been grounded have been cleared,” he said. “One is ready for service immediately and the other two are almost done.
The challenges
“All conditions required by CAAZ are being met and the planes are fit for all the purposes.”

Friday, July 8, 2011

Air Zimbabwe Refere Three Options to Local Passengers

EMBATTLED national airline, Air Zimbabwe, which is struggling to service its routes is now booking passengers on buses to some of their local trips, it emerged this week.
Scores of passengers who were scheduled to fly to Bulawayo on Sunday were left stranded after their flight was cancelled at the last minute due to operational challenges.
In a telephone interview on Monday, a spokesperson for Air Zimbabwe, who refused to disclose her name confirmed the cancellation of the flights and said they gave passengers three options.  The first option was to be booked in a bus that was supposed to leave Harare on Monday afternoon, the second one being to be rebooked for a Wednesday flight, while the last one was to have the passengers' money refunded.
"Our flight to Bulawayo on Sunday had to be cancelled due to operational challenges and we had to give the passengers three options.
“Those who were in a hurry were asked to use a bus on Monday afternoon, while others had their flights rebooked for Wednesday. Those who felt hard done by the move will have their money refunded," said the spokesperson.
One of the affected passengers, Mutare businessman Mr Isau Mupfumi, who was scheduled to fly to Bulawayo to attend to pressing commitments at his Senatar Tours, said  he was surprised to be told that the flight had been cancelled when he was  already at the airport.
"This is so inconveniencing because we had already made plans for meetings in Bulawayo, only to be told that the flight had been cancelled. When flights are cancelled the service provider usually pays for the passengers' accommodation while they wait for the next flight and this did not happen after Sunday's flight cancellation.
"Some of us we are in the public transport business and it was an insult for Air Zimbabwe to ask us to use buses to travel to Bulawayo. I could have even looked for the most comfortable bus among my fleet to take me to Bulawayo, but we opted to support our national airline, only to be repaid through this kind of service," complained Mr Mupfumi. Some of the passengers going to local routes like Bulawayo and Victoria Falls are first travelling to Johannesburg in South Africa and reconnect back to Bulawayo and Victoria Falls due to Air Zimbabwe's inconsistence.
Most passengers who opt for refunds have to wait for a little longer to have their money as the national airline takes time to avail the refunds.
"We do not pay refunds there and there and that is why we usually try to rebook our passengers in the next available flight," said the Air Zimbabwe spokesperson.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Direct flights will double US tourist arrivals to Kenya

The Kenya Minister of Tourism, the Hon. Najib Balala, has expressed his hope that a fresh round of bilateral talks on direct flights between Kenya and the United States would eventually result in such flights being launched, following the failed attempt by Delta in past years to connect the US to Nairobi via West Africa. While such flights to West Africa did go ahead to places like Monrovia even, Nairobi was "blacklisted" according to a well-informed US source over "security concerns."
Presently, over 100,000 Americans visit Kenya, regularly defying state department anti-travel advisories, which are also thought to be a political tool and have lost much of its credibility in recent years due to regular "overuse."
According to the minister, Kenya’s arrivals from the US could more than double in years to come as direct or even nonstop flights would make it more attractive for Americans to travel to East Africa without the present stopover in Europe, the Gulf, or the three African airports of Johannesburg, Cairo, and Addis Ababa, from where nonstop services fly daily into key American cities.
Other airlines have dismissed the "concerns" by the Americans over safety and security of air travel in Kenya as "a shallow and blatant attempt to dress up other political issues," claiming that they are flying daily into Nairobi. Leading global airline giants like Emirates, Qatar, British Airways, Swiss, KLM/Air France, Brussels Airlines, Virgin, South African, Ethiopian, and many others land every day at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport and yet more airlines are planning to come to Kenya. The facilities at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport are due to be dramatically enlarged, including a second runway and an additional brand-new passenger terminal, to cater to such an influx, cementing Nairobi’s standing as THE aviation hub in Eastern Africa.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

KLM powers flight with cooking oil derivative

Dutch carrier KLM has made history by powering scheduled flight KL1233 from Amsterdam to Paris on biokerosene produced from used cooking oil.
The flight, which took off at 1230 from Amsterdam Schiphol airport, was operated by a B737-800 aircraft, with 171 passengers on board.
The flight is a precursor to a schedule which will see over 200 biokerosene flights being operated by KLM between Amsterdam and Paris this September.
Managing director of KLM Camiel Eurlings said that the intiative showed the carrier “leads the world in showing that innovation and sustainability are inextricably linked”.
KLM says it is “open to using different raw materials for the end product, as long as they meet a range of sustainability criteria, including substantial reductions in CO2 emissions and minimum negative impact on biodiversity and food supply”.

Van Hoog is thwarted at Rainbow Tourism AGM

RACISM, under the guise of indigenisation, reared its ugly head at Rainbow Tourism Group’s annual general meeting on Wednesday, in which the single largest majority shareholder Nick van Hoogstraten failed to get a single seat on the RTG board, despite  having a 36,5% stake in the tourism group — the second largest hospitality company in the country.
An apparently rented crowd, led by mercurial indigenisation lobbyist Paddington Japajapa jeered and ululated after van Hoogstraten failed to secure a seat on the RTG board, lambasting the Zimbabwean-resident Briton for being a colonialist who had his finger in every pie of Zimbabwe’s economy.
Japajapa, who is president of the Zimbabwe Indigenous Economic Empowerment Organisation (ZIEEO), told businessdigest after the AGM that the blocking of Van Hoogstraten’s proposed nominees was a victory for indigenisation in Zimbabwe.
“This is a victory for empowerment in this country. We cannot have one man holding us to ransom all the time. He wants to be everywhere. He is in the financial services, mining and hospitality and his story is the same. He is using the money that they stole from us in Rhodesia to suppress us,” he said.
“We had waited a long time for this. We cannot have someone who shareholders say cannot even be engaged at any stage of running the business to later come and allege that the company is being mismanaged. Why can’t he use proper channels if he can prove is allegations instead of disrupting the AGM every year,” Japajapa said.
Japajapa then confronted Van Hoogstraten, asking him what he will do next after “receiving a thorough beating and humiliation.”
Indigenous Business Development Centre CEO Joshua Marufu, who was also part of the cheering crowd, said he was pleased that empowered Zimbabweans were taking centre stage on the running of local institutions.
“We want to thank the shareholders for having faith in their own empowered Zimbabweans as evidenced by the results of the polls,” he said.
“We urge all Zimbabweans to remain united as we fight for the removal of illegal sanctions which have impacted negatively on RTG which van Hoogstraten is purporting as mismanagement while it’s their effect,” Marufu said.
Van Hoogstraten, a property mogul who
has also been bandied about as being the single largest investor on the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange, told businessdigest he will call for an urgent Extraordinary General Meeting after shareholders resisted his proposed nominees to the board at the group’s tension-filled AGM. “Expect a notice for an EGM in the next few months to detail the fraud that has taken place and who was involved. It will be a detailed account of those fraudsters who want to enrich themselves by having more board seats and shareholding,” he said. “It is time to put an end to this. (alleged fraud). We will expose all that they did and are doing.” 
He had proposed Shingirayi Chibanguza aged 27, Alexander Hamilton (23), Ian Haruperi (32) and Maximilian Hamilton (25), be appointed to the board. However, it was mostly those in the Econet –Afre – NSSA axis that were appointed. They were chairperson Tracy Mpofu who got a 61% vote, Trynos Kufazvinei (61,1%), Godfrey Manhambara (99,9%), Shadreck Vera (61,1%), Krison Charairo (61%) and John Gould (61%).
This means Econet founder Strive Masiyiwa now has the upper hand in the attempt to take over RTG. Like his adversary, Masiyiwa, appears set to have his finger in every pie of Zimbabwe’s economy, now that he has entered the financial services sector via Afre and Renaissance Financial Holdings and tourism via RTG. Masiyiwa has also made a bid for largest hotel group in Zimbabwe, African Sun Limited.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Air Zimbabwe sinks deeper

The crisis at Air Zimbabwe is set to worsen on Wednesday with threats by Zambezi Airlines to withdraw its aircraft leased to the beleaguered parastatal unless it paid $460 000 owed to the Zambian firm, NewsDay can reveal.

Sources told NewsDay on Tuesday night that Zambezi Airlines was likely to withdraw the aircraft it is leasing to Air Zimbabwe on Wednesday.

“Zambezi Airlines have given us up to Wednesday (today) to pay the $460 000 instalment which we were supposed to have paid on June 15. They had threatened to withdraw their aircraft on Monday but they have since given us up to Wednesday (today) to sort ourselves out,” said the source who requested anonymity.

Contacted for comment on Tuesday, Air Zimbabwe acting chief executive Innocent Mavhunga only said the airline had numerous problems which they were trying to address and that he was presently in meetings and as such could not comment.

The national airline is leasing an aircraft from Zambezi Airlines to service regional routes after its fleet of Boeing 737s was condemned by the Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe early this year.

Air Zimbabwe is reeling under a heavy debt and last week, local suppliers of A1 Jet reportedly stopped supplying them with fuel, because the airline had failed to service its $1,6 million debt.

The airline had to cancel flights because of that. Pilots are also reportedly threatening to down tools over a salary dispute while the National Social Security Authority plans to attach Air Zimbabwe properties over unremitted workers’ pension contributions.

Air Zimbabwe is reportedly saddled with a $100 million debt.