Thursday, December 15, 2011

200 Air Zimbabwe passengers remain stuck at Gatwick

At least 200 passengers were left stranded at Gatwick airport on Wednesday, ZimEye has learnt.
Airport officials told Zim Eye that 60 passengers had the previous day on Tuesday been given emergency sleeping facilities and food and the rest randomly put into hotels after an impounded Air Zimbabwe jet was being prepared for a possible auction originally scheduled for Wednesday (yesterday).
Four passengers belonging to the group were reported to have been arrested, another report British Police are yet to respond to, amid evidence that this may have been a mere rumour.
“We had about 60 passengers that stayed over at Gatwitck last night and we made sure that they were catered for, they had food, sleeping facilities and water,” an airport official told ZimEye Wednesday morning. By evening time, it had become clear that the full number was nearing a 200 total with some having to sleep on emmergency beds.
The Air Zimbabwe website was also seen having no update with the lastest news update having been made as far back as July when the company’s management fought media reports that stated the pilots were striking.
Problems haunting the airline were forecasted by the company’s chief executive who in June 2009 said the entity was now cash strapped:
The cash strapped parastatal cited under capitalization, huge debts and critical foreign currency shortages as the major challenges that it is facing. Air Zimbabwe Chief Executive Officer Dr. Chikumba confirmed that up to 480 employees would be retrenched within the next 12 months.
“The airline is in the intensive care unit. We are battling for survival and cannot afford to maintain the current number of employees” said Dr Chikumba as he also pointed out that the company would even afford to employ more than 800 workers.
Meanwhile, Zimbabwean radio personality Ezra Sibanda, among the passengers, was quoted by VOA stating that the situation was chaotic. “We have been camping at the airport without food and other basic necessities,” he said before Air Zimbabwe booked passengers back into a hotel.
The chaos has not only affected those travelers stranded at Gatwick but family and friends waiting for their loved ones back in Zimbabwe.
Former Combined Harare Residents Association chairman Mike Davies was quoted by VOA’s Violet Gonda stating that his wife was one of those stuck at the London airport with little help from the airline.
The outraged Davies vowed that his family will never fly Air Zimbabwe again. He said the situation was “just pathetic” and made a “mockery” of the airline.
“I spoke to my wife and she said the spirit (at Gatwick) is quite good. The Gatwick staff commented how well behaved the Zimbabweans were … She said, ‘Yes, that is the problem with us Zimbabweans, we don’t cause trouble.’”