AIR Zimbabwe’s Boeing 767 plane, impounded at Gatwick Airport over a week ago, was finally released on Tuesday, but the airline says it will take a few more days before flights can resume.
The aircraft was seized by US spares and maintenance firm, American General Supplies as it tried to force payment of a US$1.5 million debt.
Air Zimbabwe's regional manager for Europe and the America’s, David Mwenga cornfirmed the release of the aircraft and apologised to passengers inconvenienced by the crisis.
“We have to apologize to a lot of our passengers,” Mwenga told SWRadio Africa.
“We cancelled three flights because of this situation. We are sorry this happened.”
More than a hundred passengers due to have flown to Harare on the day the plane was seized were left stranded and also suffered the ignominy of being thrown out of a London Hotel after the airline allegedly failed to pay.
Meanwhile, Mwenga said flights would only resume after repairs to problems that developed over the time the plane was grounded have been completed.
Engineers are expected to complete the work by the end of the weekend.
However, the crisis ruined affected passenger’s holiday plans as most would have hoped to be home with their families in time for Christmas.
Mwenga said some had been refunded and managed to make alternative arrangements, but admitted that most could not be given back their money because of limited funds.
Air Zimbabwe has also been forced to suspend flights to South Africa fearing more of its aircraft could be seized by creditors.
The airline is said to be saddled with a debt of about US$140 million.