Air Zimbabwe cancels all regional flights

HARARE – The Embattled flag carrier Air Zimbabwe has cancelled all of its regional flights after a creditor took back a leased plane over a $460,000 unpaid debt, the airline's boss said Wednesday.\r\n

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The move leaves the airline flying only one route between Harare and London, in addition to its two domestic routes, chief executive Innocent Mavhunga told AFP.

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The national carrier was leasing a Boeing 737-500 from Zambia-based Zambezi Airlines, but the lessor has withdrawn its plane, resulting in the cancellation of all of Air Zimbabwe’s regional flights.

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“Yes, there have been problems with Zambezi Airlines, but we are negotiating with our partners,” Mavhunga told AFP. “Only regional regional flights have been affected.”

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Last month, Air Zimbabwe retired three obsolete Boeing 737-300 planes after entering a deal with Zambezi Airlines to ply the regional routes.

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The latest crisis to affect the national carrier comes days after it was suspended by International Air Transport Association (IATA) over a $280,000 debt.

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IATA spokesman Chris Goater said Air Zimbabwe would not be able to sell tickets through local or foreign travel agents until the debt is settled.

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“We hope that it will clear its financial obligations to return to participation in IATA’s financial systems in short order,” he said.

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Air Zimbabwe, which once flew 25 routes, is saddled with a $100-million debt, an ageing fleet and high staff turnover.

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The airline’s problems have opened way for others such as South African Airways, Ethiopian Airlines and Kenya Airways to take over routes that Air Zimbabwe used to ply.

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