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.