Auxilia Katongomara, Chronicle Reporter
National airline, Air Zimbabwe has suspended flights up to mid-month due to maintenance works being carried out on its only functioning plane.
The airline, which has largely been operating only two serviceable aircraft, was left with one following the grounding of the popular Mbuya Nehanda last month.
The remaining aircraft, the 767-200ER, also known as Chimanimani is undergoing servicing.
In a statement yesterday, Air Zimbabwe said it had made other travel arrangements for customers who had booked flights in advance but is not taking any bookings up to January 15.
“Air Zimbabwe wishes to advise its valued customers of a schedule disruption due to minor component upgrade on the B767-200 ER from 11 to 15 January 2019.
We wish to assure all valued customers who are holding confirmed and ticketed bookings within the mentioned dates that alternative arrangements have been made in order to ensure minimum disruptions to their travel plans,” reads the statement.
The airline said affected passengers will be contacted via email, telephone or SMS with information on alternative arrangements for their travel.
“Normal schedule is expected to resume on 15 January 2019 and we will avail relevant updates via our website and official social media platforms,” said Air Zimbabwe.
In an interview yesterday, Air Zimbabwe corporate affairs manager, Mr Tafadzwa Mazonde said they had made alternative arrangements with other airlines.
“We have strategic relationships with other airlines to cater for such circumstances,” said Mr Mazonde.
Asked about the leased aircraft that was meant to replace Mbuya Nehanda, Mr Mazonde said they had since terminated the lease agreement as the cost of leasing proved to be unsustainably high.
Air Zimbabwe grounded Mbuya Nehanda, a Boeing 737-200 ER for mandatory maintenance expected to last over a month on December 30. The airline said the maintenance check for Mbuya Nehanda was in line with aviation quality and safety standards.
“Air Zimbabwe wishes to advise its valued passengers that our aircraft, B737 Registration Z-WPA popularly known as ‘Mbuya Nehanda’ will be grounded for a mandatory maintenance check which is expected to be completed after 45 days with effect from midnight 30 December 2018, in line with aviation quality and safety standards,” it said in a statement issued last month.
Mbuya Nehanda serviced the Harare /Bulawayo /Victoria Falls /Harare as well as Harare /Dar es Salaam routes.
Sources at the airline said the plane could be retired as it has served for 33 years.
“This plane was acquired in 1986 and is likely not going to come back into service. It is very old. It is likely going to be replaced,” said the source.
Air Zimbabwe, which has been consistently underperforming in the last few years, was placed under reconstruction on October 4 last year in terms of the Reconstruction of State-Indebted Insolvent Companies Act (Chapter 24:27).
The move was designed to allow Air Zimbabwe an opportunity to clear its debt thought to be more than $334 million.
During the reconstruction process, all payments towards debts accrued by the company prior to October 4, 2018, would be temporarily suspended and settled in terms of this process.
In 1980, Air Zimbabwe had 18 aircraft flying into 31 destinations but it is now limited to Harare-Johannesburg; Harare-Bulawayo and Harare-Victoria Falls and Harare-Dar es Salaam routes. — @AuxiliaK.