Leonard Ncube in Victoria Falls
VICTORIA Falls International Airport is overwhelmed by visitors, a development that has seen some airlines either increasing frequency or introducing bigger planes to meet demand.
The new look facility was commissioned two years ago following a $150 million refurbishment and now has capacity to handle wide bodied aircraft and 1,5 million passengers annually.
Airlines that use Victoria Falls Airport include Air Zimbabwe, Air Namibia, British Airways, Fastjet, Ethiopian Airways, Kenyan Airways, South African Airways and SA Airlink.
Inquiries by The Chronicle established that Ethiopian Airways and South African Airlink have been occasionally bringing bigger aircraft due to an increase in demand.
Airlink, which uses the 37-seater Embraer EJ135 plane, has on three occasions this month flown an 83-seater plane on its Cape Town-Victoria Falls route due to demand.
The Ethiopian Airways brought the new Boeing 737 series last week to relieve the Boeing 787 Dreamliner due to demand.
The two airlines started flying into Victoria Falls last year and have been consistent in their schedules.
Airlink flies six days a week except for Saturday connecting the two tourist destinations of Victoria Falls and Cape Town.
Ethiopian Airlines flies four times a week between Addis Ababa-Victoria Falls-Gaborone-Addis Ababa on Sundays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.
Sources from both airlines, who preferred to remain anonymous because they are not authorised to speak to the media, said the bigger planes will be occasionally coming based on demand.
Air Namibia and Fastjet have also increased frequency into Victoria Falls.
Air Namibia, which used to fly three days, now flies five days a week on Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday while Fastjet now flies twice daily between Harare and Victoria Falls for six days except for Saturday.
The airliner also flies between Victoria Falls and Johannesburg on Thursday and Sunday.
Victoria Falls Airport manager, Mr Ronnie Masawi, yesterday said the facility was overwhelmed with numbers as more people continue to trickle in.
He said the current hype is expected to prevail until the end of the year.
“We are right in the middle of the peak season in Victoria Falls and airlines are reporting a higher number of passengers that they are bringing to Victoria Falls and flying out on a daily basis.
“We expect this to continue up to the end of November,” said Mr Masawi.
The Zimbabwe Council for Tourism early this year said the airport’s capacity utilisation had risen from 21 to 26 percent while tourism players recorded a 20 percent boom in business owing to consistency by airlines in servicing the route.
Predictions by one of Zimbabwe’s largest leisure groups Africa Albida Tourism last year showed that renewed interest by airlines to the new look facility would attract an additional 80 000 visitors annually.