Air Zimbabwe revive hits a snag

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National airline Air Zimbabwe says its bid to have strategic partners aboard its revival plans has been unsuccessful with bidders failing to measure up to expectations.

The airline was placed under reconstruction in October 2018 after plunging into huge debt amounting to more than $300 million (Sh30 billion).Administrator Reggie Saruchera said yesterday the bid to find a strategic partner or investor for the government-owned airline had been unsuccessful.

Mr Saruchera had invited interested parties to invest in the airline in November 2018.“A process to solicit for a strategic partner or investor was undertaken but none of the parties that expressed interest and submitted investment bids were successful,” he said.

“The administrator appraised the Government of Zimbabwe through the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructural Development of the need to continue with its drive to re-capacitate the national airline and attend to the pre-reconstruction legacy debts,” Saruchera said in an update to creditors.

Settling of the legacy debt would enable the administrator to settle with all creditors and remove the airline from reconstruction, he said.

The airline has also suffered the embarrassment of its aircraft being impounded outside the country over outstanding debts. In October last year, the Airports Company of South Africa impounded its only operational aircraft, a Boeing 767-200 ER.

With regards to the equipment update, he said the two Boeing 777-200ER aircraft which were acquired from Malaysia in 2016 would be leased pending the re-introduction of international flights to China and London.

One of the two aircraft was returned to Zimbabwe in January while the second one is expected back in March after undergoing maintenance work in Malaysia.

“The national airline will be leasing out the two Boeing 777-200ER aircraft in the immediate, pending re-introduction of international flights to China and London after developing a robust domestic and regional route network.

During the lease period, the airline will embark on training of flight crew, maintenance and ground handling personnel,” he said.There have been queries from aviation experts on why the airline acquired aircraft for which it had no trained personnel to handle.

Saruchera said nine companies had submitted offers to lease the aircraft with proceeds to be applied towards the acquisition of additional narrow bodied aircraft to strengthen the domestic and regional network.

Air Zimbabwe has also not been able to operate an Embraer aircraft it acquired in April 2019 because of the lack of the Know Your Customer (KYC) clearance which allows the airline to access backup manuals, software and spares.Saruchera said the first stage of KYC had been cleared, allowing the airline to access FlyAmbraer software, back-up manuals and immediately start operating the aircraft.

“Work is underway to facilitate the training of flight crew and line maintenance engineers. The aircraft is due for a C-check this February and we anticipate to have the aircraft operational by the beginning of the second quarter of 2020,” said Saruchera.