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definition - Air_Zimbabwe

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Air Zimbabwe

Air Zimbabwe
Founded 1 September 1967 (1967-09-01) (as Air Rhodesia Corporation)
Salisbury, Rhodesia
Commenced operations 2 April 1980 (1980-04-02)
Ceased operations 24 February 2012 (2012-02-24)
Frequent-flyer program Rainbow Club
Fleet size 9
Destinations 9
Company slogan Zimbabwean hospitality in the skies
Parent company Air Zimbabwe Holdings[1]
Headquarters Harare International Airport
Harare, Zimbabwe
Key people
Website www.airzimbabwe.com

Air Zimbabwe was the national airline of Zimbabwe, headquartered on the property of Harare International Airport,[3] in Harare.[4][5][6] From its hub at Harare International Airport, the carrier operated a network within southern Africa that also included Asia and London-Gatwick. The company was a member of the International Air Transport Association, and of the African Airlines Association since 1981.[6] It was 100%-owned by the Government of Zimbabwe.[6][7] Following financial difficulties, Air Zimbabwe ceased operations in late February 2012 (2012-02).[8][9]



  Early years

  An Air Zimbabwe Boeing 707-320B on final approach to London Gatwick Airport in 1989.
  In the eighties, the carrier adopted a new aircraft livery based on the colours of the flag of Zimbabwe.[10]

The entity that eventually became Air Zimbabwe formally came into being on 1 September 1967, when the Government of Rhodesia created Air Rhodesia Corporation to succeed Air Rhodesia, a wholly owned subsidiary of Central African Airways Corporation (CAAC) that had existed since 1964 as a domestic airline within Rhodesia.[11][12] Air Rhodesia inherited CAAC operations following its dissolution at the end of 1967.[11] It became the short-lived Air Zimbabwe Rhodesia in 1978,[13] and finally Air Zimbabwe in April 1980 when the Republic of Zimbabwe was formed.[14] The carrier began scheduled services on 2 April 1980 to London-Gatwick.[15]

Two Viscount 800s were purchased from Dan-Air in the early 1980s, in order to replace the Viscount 700s inherited from Air Rhodesia that were near the end of their life and also rendered too small for some services; these aircraft flew for the company until their retirement in 1989.[16][additional citation needed] In September 1980 (1980-09), an agreement for the purchase of three Boeing 707-320B was signed with Lufthansa; the first aircraft arrived at Salisbury on 19 February 1981. Subsequently, the order was increased to five aircraft. Flights to Frankfurt were started in May 1981.[citation needed]

In May 1982 (1982-05) the Government directed Air Zimbabwe and the national freighter airline Affretair to merge their operations; the freighter company was eventually taken over by Air Zimbabwe in July 1983 (1983-07).[14] In July 1982 (1982-07), services to Athens were inaugurated, and a weekly joint service with Qantas to Perth and Sydney was started in November that year, using Qantas aircraft.[citation needed]

It was decided in September 1982 (1982-09) that the fleet should be repainted in the national colours to replace the former Air Rhodesia livery.[citation needed] A new decor was designed, using green, gold, crimson and black stripes in a stepped pattern on the fuselage sides and extending halfway up the vertical fin together with a new, more recognisable Zimbabwe bird, superimposed on a red star.

  Financial turmoil

In 2003, it was reported that the carrier had been struggling financially and at the mercy of local and international banks.[citation needed] In February 2004 (2004-02), it was revealed that the company had been temporarily suspended by International Air Transport Association (IATA) over unpaid debts.[5][17] A foreign exchange crisis in the country led to the cancellation of the carrier's operations in late 2005, following the lack of hard currency to pay for the fuel.[18][19][20]

It was disclosed in 2006 that passenger numbers had fallen from 1 million in 1999 to 23,000 in 2005.[18] Acting chief executive Captain Oscar Madombwe blamed the decline on negative publicity about the political and economic situation in the country, safety concerns among travellers —which he said were unjustified because the airline had an impeccable safety record—, and shortages of hard currency, new equipment and fuel.[citation needed] In late October 2006 (2006-10), the prices of Air Zimbabwe tickets increased up to 500%, partly due to the inflation in the country rising to over 1,000% —at that time the Zimbabwean Central Bank stated that it could not continue supporting Air Zimbabwe and other money-losing state companies—, and partly because the airline was in need of foreign currency to pay for fuel, spare parts, and catering.[21]


In May 2011 (2011-05), the airline was suspended from the international financial and booking system by IATA over unpaid booking fees.[22][23][24] It was announced in early November 2011 (2011-11) that the government would absorb a US$140 million debt in order to make the company more attractive to foreign investors.[25][26] Already in December 2011 (2011-12), the carrier struggled to provide its regional and overseas services amid aircraft impoundments over unpaid debts.[2][27][28]

In January 2012 (2012-01), the airline came under judicial management.[29][30] Following a failed revival attempt, in which the pilots refused to resume domestic services over US$35 million in unpaid salaries and allowances, Air Zimbabwe was grounded indefinitely on 24 February 2012.[9][31]


  An Air Zimbabwe Boeing 767-200ER on short finals to Singapore Changi Airport in 2005.

A Harare–Beijing service was launched in November 2004 (2004-11), following an increase of the ChineseZimbabwean economical ties.[32] Likewise, the carrier added Kuala Lumpur to its network in 2009.[33] A capacity boost was disclosed to occur on the Harare–London-Gatwick route effective 1 April 2011.[34][35] The Harare–London route was once served by both British Airways and Air Zimbabwe; it had become one of the most lucrative routes for Air Zimbabwe since British Airways discontinued the service in 2007.[36]

  2011/2012 flight disruptions

It was informed in February 2011 that the airline temporarily suspended its flights to Johannesburg over likely impoundments of its planes by creditors due to unpaid debts.[37] Regional and domestic services were suspended for a short period in May 2011, following both the grounding of its Boeing 737-200 fleet by the Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe (CAAZ) over maintenance concerns,[38] and the impoundment of a leased aircraft from Zambezi Airlines over a U$S 460,000 unpaid debt.[39] Operations resumed in late May 2011 (2011-05), following an agreement between the two airlines,[40][41] yet the aircraft was repossessed by its owner in late June 2011 (2011-06).[42]

In mid-June 2011 (2011-06), flights to London and South Africa were temporarily suspended because of a due debt with fuel suppliers.[43] Owing both to the grounding of the 737-200 fleet and to fuel shortages in the country, domestic services were suspended and regional flights were operated on an irregular basis.[44][45] The airline started regularising medium– and short–haul operations in July 2011 (2011-07), as it got clearance from the CAAZ to operate one of its three grounded 737-200.[46][47]

Operations were discontinued again in late July 2011 (2011-07), this time due to a pilots strike, resuming in mid-September after a 50-day-long strike.[48][49][50] Once again, overseas and domestic flights were temporarily cancelled in early November 2011 (2011-11), this time owing to an unpaid debt with fuel providers.[25][51][52] Overseas routes resumed on 11 November.[53] However, flights to the United Kingdom and South Africa were suspended in January 2012 (2012-01) over likely impoundments of the airline's aircraft for outstanding debts.[54][7]


  An Air Zimbabwe Boeing 767-200ER at Frankfurt Airport in 1992.

Following is a list of destinations Air Zimbabwe flew to throughout its history, as part of its scheduled services.

Country City IATA ICAO Airport Refs
 Botswana Gaborone GBE FBSK Sir Seretse Khama International Airport [55]:887[56]
 China Beijing PEK ZBAA Beijing Capital International Airport [57]
 Cyprus Larnaca LCA LCLK Larnaca International Airport [56]
 Democratic Republic of the Congo Kinshasa FIH FZAA N'djili Airport [58]
Lubumbashi FBM FZQA Lubumbashi International Airport [57]
Mbuji-Mayi MJM FZWA Mbuji Mayi Airport [59]
 Germany Frankfurt FRA EDDF Frankfurt Airport [55]:887[60][56]
 Greece Athens ATH LGAT Hellinikon International Airport [55]:887
 Kenya Nairobi NBO HKJK Jomo Kenyatta International Airport [55]:887[60][56]
 Malawi Blantyre BLZ FWCL Chileka International Airport [55]:887[60]
Lilongwe LLW FWKI Lilongwe International Airport [56]
 Mozambique Maputo MPM FQMA Maputo International Airport [56]
 Mauritius Mauritius MRU FIMP Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam International Airport [56]
 Malaysia Kuala Lumpur KUL WMKK Kuala Lumpur International Airport [57]
 Namibia Windhoek WDH FYWH Windhoek Hosea Kutako International Airport [56]
 Singapore Singapore SIN WSSS Singapore Changi Airport [61]
 South Africa Durban DUR FADN Durban International Airport [55]:887[60][56]
Johannesburg JNB FAJS OR Tambo International Airport [57]
 Swaziland Manzini MTS FDMS Matsapha Airport [56]
 Tanzania Dar es Salaam DAR HTDA Julius Nyerere International Airport [56]
 United Arab Emirates Dubai DXB OMDB Dubai International Airport [61]
 United Kingdom London LGW EGKK Gatwick Airport [57]
 Zambia Lusaka LUN FLLS Lusaka International Airport [57]
 Zimbabwe Bulawayo BUQ FVBU Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo International Airport [57]
Chiredzi BFO FVCZ Buffalo Range Airport [60][56]
Gweru GWE FVTL Gweru-Thornhill Air Base [56]
Harare HRE FVHA Harare International Airport [57]
Hwange National Park HWN FVWN Hwange National Park Airport [55]:887[56]
Kariba KAB FVKB Kariba Airport [55]:887[60][56]
Masvingo MVZ FVMV Masvingo Airport [55]:887[56]
Victoria Falls VFA FVFA Victoria Falls Airport [57]


  An Air Zimbabwe Fokker 50 at Victoria Falls Airport in 1995.
  An Air Zimbabwe Boeing 767-200ER is being towed at Singapore Changi Airport in 2007.
  Belly of an Air Zimbabwe Boeing 767-200ER, just departed from Singapore Changi Airport. The aircraft wears the carrier's latest eurowhite livery in 2011.

The initial fleet of five Boeing 707s sourced from Lufthansa replaced the Boeing 720 aircraft used by Air Rhodesia. These 707s joined the Vickers Viscount fleet, that was strengthened by the addition of two Viscounts 810s from Dan Air.[62] The airline saw the incorporation of the Boeing 737-200 into its fleet in 1985.[63] Three Boeing 737 aircraft were ordered from Boeing in the mid 1980s to enhance regional routes.[citation needed]

Long haul operations that were once operated with the 707s were gradually shifted to the newly acquired Boeing 767-200ER equipment; the first of them entered the fleet in late 1989.[64] A British Aerospace BAe 146 was added to the fleet from the Zimbabwean Air force in the eighties. Leased Fokker 50s were used from 1995 but proved unsuitable to the hot and high conditions and were returned to the lessor.[65] The BAe 146 had been subsequently grounded.

In 2005 the airline leased two MA-60 turboprops from China, which were later supplemented by a third donated example in 2006, to operate domestic and short regional routes.

It was announced in 2006 that the Zimbabwean Government had ordered 5 Ilyushin Il-96s aircraft (2 passenger and 3 freighter versions) from Russia, in order to replace the company's ageing Boeing 767 long-haul fleet. After talks with Russian authorities, the order was cancelled.[citation needed] Likewise, in late 2010 the airline announced it had ordered two Airbus A340-500s to serve both the Harare–Beijing and the Harare–London routes;[66] the order was later cancelled after the company failed to raise the money.[67]

In late June 2011 (2011-06), Air Zimbabwe was forced to return the Boeing 737-500 it was hiring from Zambezi Airlines to partially compensate the lack of equipment following the grounding of its Boeing 737-200 fleet,[38] as it was unable to afford the costs of its leasing.[42] The aircraft was mainly used to operate the Harare–Johannesburg route; it was disclosed the company had to fly the route using one of their Boeing 767s.[42]

Despite versions for the acquisition of new aircraft were officially declined in July 2011 owing to a precarious cash position,[68] it was disclosed that the airline bought an Airbus A340-500 and an Airbus A320, both new, in August 2011.[69] As of January 2012, there exists discrepant versions over the acquisition of new Airbuses, since the secretary of the Zimbabwean Ministry of Transport has denied the transaction, but some third-party sources have records for the delivery of an A320 to the company.[70][71]


The airline operated the following equipment throughout its history:[72]

  Bad Publicity

In June 1999 the Chicago Tribune published a story in which the reporter Gaby Plattner claimed she had flown from Kariba to Hwange on an Air Zimbabwe service, and that the flight departed without a co-pilot, who did not arrive on time for unexplained reasons. It was claimed that during the flight the pilot went to the bathroom, held the cockpit door open with a rubber band, that the aircraft encountered turbulence on its flightpath and the rubber band snapped loose, and that the door eventually got closed and locked the pilot out of the cockpit. The article also claimed that the pilot had to use an axe to chop down the door.[citation needed] The newspaper later stated that this story was untrue.[75]

Some time later the carrier sued CNN after it ran a story claiming it was the most dangerous airline in the world.[76]

  Accidents and incidents

According to Aviation Safety Network,[77] the company did not have accidents involving fatalities since Air Rhodesia was renamed Air Zimbabwe in 1980. The only hull-loss accident the airline went through is listed below.

  See also


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  62. ^ History
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  72. ^ "SubFleets for: Air Zimbabwe". AeroTransport Data Bank. 23 January 2012. http://www.aerotransport.org/php/go.php?query=operator&qstring=Air+Zimbabwe&where=56963&luck=. Retrieved 23 January 2012. 
  73. ^ "Marketplace". Flight International. Flightglobal.com. 6 August 1997. Archived from the original on 3 July 2011. http://www.webcitation.org/68saAxWYU. Retrieved 3 July 2011. "Air Zimbabwe has added a BAe 146-100 on long term lease from Air Botswana." 
  74. ^ a b c d "World Airline Directory – Air Zimbabwe" (PDF). Flight International: 47. 26 March 1988. Archived from the original on 3 July 2012. http://www.webcitation.org/68sZzhCW6. Retrieved 3 July 2012. 
  75. ^ "No Truth To The Story". Chicago Tribune. 18 June 1999. Archived from the original on 3 July 2012. http://www.webcitation.org/68sZv7Reo. Retrieved 3 July 2012. "The Tribune on June 13 published a Correction and Clarification on the story. The supposed incident did not happen. The free-lance writer who wrote the first-person account now says she passed along a story she heard as something she had experienced." 
  76. ^ "Air Zimbabwe sues CNN and Chicago Tribune over negative press coverage". BNET. 4 January 2000. http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0CWU/is_2000_Jan_4/ai_58471084/. Retrieved 3 July 2012. 
  77. ^ "ASN Aviation Safety Database – Air Zimbabwe". Aviation Safety Network. 28 November 2004. http://aviation-safety.net/database/operator/airline.php?var=6586. Retrieved 10 May 2011. 
  78. ^ Incident description for Z-YNI at the Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved on 10 May 2011.
  79. ^ "VH-TVN Vickers Viscount 756D. c/n 374.". Aussie Airliners. http://www.aussieairliners.org/viscount/vh-tvn/vhtvn.html. Retrieved 10 May 2011. 

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