The entry into Zimbabwe by international carrier Emirates and the increased number of flights to Zimbabwean destinations by South African Airways will avert a near-collapse of the local aviation sector, economists and analysts say, as the beleaguered Air Zimbabwe has failed to return to full operation.
From next month, Emirates will launch a five-times-a-week transcontinental service linking Harare, Lusaka, Dubai and the UAE. Tourism, which relies heavily on a strong and vibrant aviation sector, is projected to rebound on the back of this development.
Global aviation market intelligence organisation Centre for Aviation says Emirates' flights linking Zimbabwe, Zambia and the UAE would "provide Zimbabwe with its first link to the Middle East that could then open lines to new trading partners in the Gulf" and beyond.
SAA has increased its capacity in Zimbabwe by introducing a daily 222-seat A330-200 flight linking Johannesburg and Harare, bringing its total frequency to 21 times a week and increasing its capacity and frequency by 66%.
Though no official comment could immediately be obtained from the SAA's Zimbabwe office, country manager Winnie Mudariki had previously said the Zimbabwe operation was lucrative "and extremely viable" for the company.
Overall seat capacity for Zimbabwe is now expected to increase to 67 000 in May - from 64 000 in December last year.
Reports also say Air Namibia will return to Harare "for the first time in 13 years" when it launches its four-times-a-week flights linking Harare and Windhoek on April 1 this year.
Economist Onias Manyunga saidthe international and regional airline operators applied for their licences long before Air Zimbabwe's problems worsened.