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.