Leonard Ncube, Victoria Falls Reporter
ZIMBABWE officially opened its airports to international flights yesterday with five airlines already committing to resume service into the country.
Low cost local airliner Fastjet landed at Victoria Falls International Airport on its Harare-Victoria Falls domestic route as the airliner was also expected to resume the Harare-Johannesburg route, joining Ethiopian Airlines, Emirates, Kenyan Airways and RwandAir, which were expected to start flying into Harare yesterday and today.
In a statement, Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe (CAAZ) acting general manager Ms Bertha Muzangaza said a number of airlines are expected in the next few weeks.
“Today Zimbabwe reopens its airports for international scheduled flights for the first time since March 2020. Three airlines are scheduled to resume international flights. Fastjest Harare to Jo’burg, Ethiopian Airlines Addis Ababa to Harare and Emirates Dubai to Harare. Kenya Airways and RwandAir will both resume on 2 October.
“We are thrilled to welcome back international passengers for scheduled flights into and from our airports. In ensuring the safety of passengers and staff, we have introduced new health measures such as mandatory temperature screening and sanitisation before entering the terminal building,” she said.
“Passengers arriving in Zimbabwe must produce a negative PRC result conducted within 48 hours prior to travel. Those showing symptoms of Covid-19 will be tested at the airport as sufficient testing equipment is in place.”
In Victoria Falls, Fastjet ERJ145 landed just before 1pm with 40 passengers on board and took off with 11 back to Harare.
While some were Victoria Falls residents returning to their families from Harare, others were on the flights to tour the resort town.
Passengers spoken to expressed excitement at the resumption of air flight services.
“I had visited Harare a fortnight ago with my family and decided to fly back today for convenience of the little children since driving by road is tiring. The flight was good despite delays in departing from Harare.
Their safety measures are perfect because everyone was sanitised on boarding and masks on and inside they have passengers little boxes with masks and sanitisers,” said a passenger who is a Victoria Falls resident and preferred to remain anonymous.
Mr Michael Jones from Harare said he took advantage of the first flight to visit Victoria Falls.
“The flight was fantastic. We are so happy to be flying again after six months and we hope this marks return of our tourism industry,” he said.
Another passenger also from Harare Ms Tofara Nyoni said: “I am visiting for the weekend to see the place and friends. Besides lack of inflight service and delays, the flight was good. We are excited to be in the skies once again.”
Even local operators could not hide the joy.
Taxi and shuttle services providers were already at the airport at 10am as the flight was initially scheduled to land at 11am.
Mr Douglas Mutepa, a driver for LED transfer company said they are desperate for the reopening of the industry.
“At least I got a client. This brings hope to us and whole industry. We are excited by the return of flights because here in Victoria Falls we rely on tourism hence its absence means no life for us. For now there is no business but we hope with these latest events things will improve,” he said.
Hopes are high in the tourism sector for a boost in domestic and regional arrivals as operators expect resumption of flights to bring clients.
Re-opening of borders and airports in South Africa also brought hope as the neighbouring country is key to the local tourism.
“Traffic from South Africa has higher numbers which we definitely need. We hope clients from our source markets will fly through East Africa and we expect better fortunes going forward,” said Hospitality Association of Zimbabwe vice president Mr Farai Chimba. — @ncubeleon