Lloyd Gumbo Senior Reporter—
Air Zimbabwe is opposed to the granting of licences to foreign airlines such as Emirates to carry passengers between Harare and Lusaka, saying such a move disadvantages the national airline. Air Zimbabwe chief executive officer Captain Ripton Muzenda last week told the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Transport and Infrastructural Development that the Harare-Lusaka route was one of the most viable routes that the national airline must be enjoying. He said under the agreement with Emirates, the airline was supposed to carry passengers from Zimbabwe to Dubai, instead of carrying passengers between Harare and Lusaka.
“Our opinion as Air Zimbabwe is that this works against our favour that Emirates is operating between Harare and Lusaka,” said Capt Muzenda.
“It is not a fifth freedom because by definition of a fifth freedom, Emirates has a right to come to Zimbabwe and take passengers to anywhere in the world provided they take them first to Dubai.
“At present they are allowed to take passengers from Harare to Lusaka and terminating. So, this extends to seventh freedom, which we are opposed to.” Capt Muzenda said the fact that Emirates was allowed to ply the Harare-Lusaka route disadvantaged the national airline, as it was unable to compete with it.
He said given that Emirates had been allowed to ply that route, there were high chances that they could end up carrying passengers between Harare and Victoria Falls or Johannesburg.
“As a national airline, we are opposed to the granting of this seventh freedom that has been couched as a fifth freedom, said Capt Muzenda.
“If they fly to Harare, they must fly back to Dubai. They are allowed to fly from Dubai to Harare to Lusaka, but they should not be carrying passengers in between.
“This brings unfair competition. For your information, the Lusaka route is very lucrative.
“The Harare-Jo’burg is the most lucrative. Harare-Lusaka is equally competitive or very close to Jo’burg and Bulawayo. So, we are opposed to the granting of foreign carriers coming to ply those routes. We cannot oppose South African Airways flying between Jo’burg and Bulawayo because it’s by right, it is reciprocal.
“We also get to do the same. But we should not be giving the foreign carriers like Emirates seventh freedom to come into Victoria Falls and Cape Town. We oppose the granting of those.”
Capt Muzenda said one of their strategic objectives for this year was to buy an aircraft that they would own. He said all the aircraft they were operating were owned by Government. Capt Muzenda said they needed to ensure that they maintained 95 percent aircraft departure reliability, though they faced challenges from their old aircraft.
He said the other challenge they faced was lack of vehicles to carry their cabin crews.
Capt Muzenda said they were hiring two vans, adding that they intended to buy some vehicles for transporting cabin crews.