Leonard Ncube in Victoria Falls
SOUTH Africa’s privately owned Airlink landed at the Victoria Falls International Airport on Sunday to become the third new airliner to fly direct to the prime resort town this year since the commissioning of the upgraded airport.
The new-look facility early this year welcomed Ethiopian Airways, a new South African Airways wide bodied 222-seater airbus and Kenyan Airways (KQ) two months ago as it continues to attract the attention of the aviation world.
The 37-seater Embraer EJ135 plane landed at the giant airport at 10.50am with 17 passengers and departed at 11.15am back to Cape Town. It will compete with KQ, which operates the route three times a week. Airlink will be flying six days a week except for Saturday connecting the two tourist destinations of Victoria Falls and Cape Town.
Upon landing, the plane was welcomed with a canyon salute before a welcome ceremony attended by a cross section of stakeholders drawn from the Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe (CAAZ), Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA), tourism players and operators.
The flight’s schedule will allow tourists who do not want to spend a night in Victoria Falls or Cape Town for a day’s activity.
Airlink corporate affairs officer, Mr Karin Murray, said the airliner’s direct service will ensure that travellers are able to maximise their time in Victoria Falls.
“Airlink is launching direct flights between Cape Town and Victoria Falls offering a daily service except for Saturdays. The early arrival in Victoria Falls allows travellers an opportunity to enjoy an afternoon activity or the ability to travel comfortably onwards to destinations such as Hwange National Park,” he said.
The flight will be departing Cape Town at 8:30am and arriving in Victoria Falls at 11:15am. It will be departing Victoria Falls at 11:45am and arrive in Cape Town at 2:40pm. Airlink is privately owned but shares schedules with SA Airways and South African Express while also servicing subsidiaries Swaziland Airlink and Airlink Cargo.
He said by including Victoria Falls into their network, Airlink was adding to its selection of renowned world destinations to give clients leisure time. The airliner services several routes in the Sadc region. ZTA regional manager, Ms Tsikadzashe Mberi, said the coming in of yet another airline was confirmation of the world’s confidence on the brand Zimbabwe.
“This simply means that market confidence is growing. This is the third new airliner this year and not a small achievement. All it means is that there is potential for growth as we continue as ZTA working in collaboration with CAAZ and other stakeholders in marketing our destinations and facilities,” she said.
Victoria Falls Mayor, Councillor Sifiso Mpofu, said Victoria Falls town is the biggest winner from all the developments.
“We are very happy as a town as this shows that the world has trust in us and the entire country,” he said.
Clr Mpofu said the challenge was now for every stakeholder to play a part to complement the new look airport.
“The more airlines come, the more we need to up our game to accommodate all the visitors.
“I am glad ZTA, CAAZ and everyone are doing a good job, we now need to make sure we market all our destinations so that the benefits are spread countrywide. Otherwise we still look forward to new airlines as this is good for our town”.
Other airlines flying into Victoria Falls are Air Zimbabwe, British Airways’ Comair unit, Air Namibia and fastJet. Locally, the airline has only serviced the Bulawayo-Johannesburg route daily. — @ncubeleon