Walter Muchinguri in Victoria Falls
Africa’s largest airline group, Ethiopian Airlines, yesterday launched its inaugural direct flight into the resort town of Victoria Falls from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.The airline’s Boeing 737-800 with 16 seats in business class and 119 in economy class, landed at Victoria Falls at 1230 with more than 20 paying passengers.The airlines will be flying four times weekly on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays and will also go via Gaborone.
The route is one of three new destinations that they are launching in three days.
The other two are Oslo and Antananarivo.
Transport and Infrastructural Development Minister Dr Joram Gumbo said the arrival of Ethiopian Airlines in Victoria Falls was a demonstration of the growing confidence in the country’s tourism industry and the country in general.
He added that the new route will bring flexibility and convenience to the traveling public as well as boost the tourism sector and Africa integration.
“I am reliably informed that Ethiopian Airlines flies to more than 85 destinations across the world and is a member of the Star Alliance Group, which is the World’s largest airline network.
“This network provides a boon for the tourism industry as it established vital links between the Victoria Falls and tourism source markets,” said Minister Gumbo.
“The resultant benefit of this wide route network is increased connectivity, flexibility and travelling convenience to our visitors and the travelling public at large,” he said.
“The introduction of flights on this route is a demonstration of the Pan African vision and outlook. We therefore greatly welcome this development in the spirit of Africa Agenda 2063 for enhanced intra-Africa trade and tourism,” he said.
He commended the airline for its commitment to Zimbabwe as it was one of few airlines that continued flying into the country when other airlines withdrew as part of the West’s sanctions against Zimbabwe.
He reiterated Government’s commitment to developing the aviation sector because of its strategic nature and potential to boost economic activity in the country.
Ethiopian Airlines managing director Mr Esayas Woldemariam Hailu said they were happy to be expanding their route network in Zimbabwe as part of their vision to connect the whole of Africa.
“We are here to stay. That is why we never left and kept flying when other airline were leaving,” said Mr Hailu. “Our vision is for African airlines to make a bigger contribution in linking the continent by air,” he said.
He said they were exploring opportunities to open up more routes in Zimbabwe.
“We are looking at the possibility of establishing a service to Bulawayo next because we want to offer a service to traders who want to travel to Dubai or China,” he said.