The Transport Department says both South African Airways and Air Zimbabwe have now submitted the foreign operators' permits required by international aviation regulations.

All flights between Johannesburg and Harare were grounded on Saturday due to non-compliance in this regard, according to aviation authorities in both counties. Transport Minister Joe Maswanganyi held an emergency meeting with aviation entities last night to try to resolve the issue. SAA has activated recovery plans with every effort being made to assist hundreds of stranded passengers, spokesman Tlali Tlali said by text message.

In an interview on SABC television he said the costs of the canceled flights couldn’t yet be calculated. Comair, which operates between South Africa and Zimbabwe under a franchise agreement with British Airways, also stopped its Saturday flights.

In a statement issued after the meeting, the department says it's anticipated that the whole matter will be resolved within a day. Zimbabwe's Transport Minister Joram Gumbo has denied there was any political reason for the grounding of flights between the two countries.

He was questioned by various media on the point. Several observers including South Africa's Democratic Alliance have linked the grounding to the impasse over Zimbabwe First Lady Grace Mugabe.

She is seeking diplomatic immunity for assault charges in South Africa. Mugabe has yet to be seen at the SADC heads of state summit in Pretoria, where her husband, President Robert Mugabe, has been meeting with other regional leaders. The summit ends on Sunday.

 

Credit: SABC / Bloomberg 

Loss-making Air Zimbabwe is cutting half of its 400 jobs as part of a restructuring plan meant to revive the ailing national carrier, Chairwoman Chipo Dyanda said today.

Like most state-owned companies in the southern African country, Air Zimbabwe has been making losses for years due to mismanagement, high operating costs, old aircraft and equipment. Dyanda told Reuters that Air Zimbabwe would cut 200 jobs in its fourth round of lay-offs in eight years.

"We were overstaffed by a lot and we are also trying to weed out people without the right qualifications," Dyanda said. "The retrenchment is meant to give space to the airline so that we can redeploy the money saved back into the company."

Air Zimbabwe cut 300 jobs in August 2015 following cuts in 2009 and 2013, but has since rehired some of the workers. President Robert Mugabe's son-in-law Simba Chikore was appointed chief operating officer last October, drawing accusations of nepotism from the opposition and critics of the government.

Dyanda said Air Zimbabwe required a ratio of 45 workers per aircraft. The airline currently flies four planes, which has forced Mugabe to at times hire private jets for his foreign travels. "As part of the strategic plan, we would like to get more reliable planes and expand our routes," Dyanda said, without giving details.

An official at Zimbabwe's Ministry of Transport said the airline, which has debts of more than $300 million, is looking to lease aircraft from Malaysia.

 

- Reuters

The United States of America’s Embassy in Zimbabwe has banned its personnel from flying state-owned Air Zimbabwe after the airline was barred from entering Europe for failing to address safety deficiencies picked up during European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) operator audits.

“U.S. Embassy Harare wishes to advise U.S. citizens that embassy personnel are prohibited from travel on Air Zimbabwe effective immediately,” the embassy said in a statement dated May 31, 2017.

“The European Union (EU) banned the state-owned airline from flying to Europe on May 16, 2017 because of safety concerns that include improper or overdue maintenance and lack of a computerized record-keeping system. Safety concerns raised by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and the U.S. Embassy’s investigation dictate that travel on Air Zimbabwe be suspended until such time as the deficiencies are rectified.”

The airline, however, currently has no planes flying to Europe but was considering resuming flights on the lucrative Harare-London route, which it stopped servicing in 2012 after one of its planes was temporarily impounded in the United Kingdom over a debt owed to a parts and maintenance supplier.

Air Zimbabwe was also thrown out of the International Aviation Transport Association (IATA) clearing house after accumulating fee arrears. That debt now stands at $3.5 million. IATA facilitates payments between airlines and other businesses in air travel.

 

- The Source

The European Commission (EC) has banned Zimbabwe’s struggling airline, Air Zimbabwe, from its airspace over safety concerns.

The EC said it had updated the list of non-European airlines that do not meet international safety standards and were, therefore, “subject to an operating ban or operational restrictions within the European Union”.

“All air carriers from Benin and Mozambique were removed from the EU Air Safety List, while four individual airlines, one each from Nigeria, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Ukraine, and Zimbabwe, were added,” the EC said. At Zimbabwe’s independence in 1980, the national carrier boasted a fleet of 18 planes, but is now operating at less than a third of that capacity and reeling under a debt in excess of US$300-million.

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe usually uses Air Zimbabwe for his foreign travels, which he reportedly pays for in full. The commission said the EU Air Safety List sought to ensure the highest level of air safety for European citizens.

The airlines Med-View (Nigeria), Mustique Airways (St Vincent and the Grenadines), Aviation Company Urga (Ukraine) and Air Zimbabwe (Zimbabwe) were added to the list due to unaddressed safety deficiencies that were detected by the European Aviation Safety Agency during the assessment for a third country operator authorisation,” the EC said.

Following Tuesday’s update, a total of 181 airlines were banned from European skies, the EC said. Six years ago, Air Zimbabwe’s Boeing 737-500 was impounded in South Africa after failing to settle a $500,000 debt owed to Bid Air Services for ground handling services. In the same year, its largest aircraft, a Boeing 767-200, was seized by American General Supplies in London over a $1,2-million debt, but was later released after the airline settled this

The airline immediately stopped flying to London, one of its most lucrative routes. The debt-ridden airline was kicked out of the International Air Transport Association’s flight reservation services in 2012 after failing to honour its obligations — which then stood at $3,4-million — a development which resulted in limited business.

 

African News Agency

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