Air Zimbabwe: Wikis


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Air Zimbabwe
Founded 1967
Hubs Harare International Airport
Focus cities Luanda, Lusaka
Fleet size 9
Destinations 17
Parent company Air Zimbabwe Holdings Private Limited
Headquarters Harare, Zimbabwe
Key people Dr. Peter Chikumba (CEO)

Air Zimbabwe is the national airline of Zimbabwe, headquartered on the grounds of Harare International Airport in Harare.[1] It operates services in southern Africa, Asia and to London Gatwick Airport. Its main base is Harare International Airport.[2]



The airline was established on 1 September 1967[3] as Air Rhodesia after Central African Airways Corporation was dissolved. It became the short-lived Air Zimbabwe Rhodesia in June 1979 and then Air Zimbabwe in April 1980 when the Republic of Zimbabwe was formed. It began services on 2 April 1980 to London Gatwick. Air Zimbabwe took over the freight airline Affretair in 1983. It is a government owned corporation. The initial fleet of five Boeing 707 sourced from Lufthansa replaced the Boeing 720 aircraft used by Air Rhodesia. These 707s joined the Vickers Viscount fleet, which was added to with the purchase of two Viscounts from the UK operator Dan Air.[4]. Three Boeing 737 aircraft were ordered from Boeing in the mid 1980s to enhance regional routes. Long haul operations which were the 707s' domain, were gradually phased out in the early to mid 1990s and replaced with two Boeing 767 aircraft. A British Aerospace BAe 146 was added to the fleet from the air force in the 1980s. Leased Fokker 50s were used from 1995 but proved unsuitable to the hot and high conditions and were returned to the lessor. The BAe 146 has been subsequently grounded.

In 2005, the airline leased two MA-60 turboprops from China which were supplemented by a third donated example in 2006 to operate domestic and short regional routes. It was announced in 2006 that the government had ordered 5 Ilyushin Il-96 aircraft from Russia (2 passenger and 3 freight versions) to replace the aging 767s. However, after talks with Russian authorities, the order was cancelled.

Air Zimbabwe 707 Z-WKT (right) and 737-200 Z-NAL at Harare International Airport, 1987
Air Zimbabwe 767-2N0ER Z-WPF. Photo taken at Kuala Lumpur International Airport

In 2003, it was reported that Air Zimbabwe had been struggling financially and at the mercy of local and international banks. In February 2004, it was reported that Air Zimbabwe had been temporarily suspended by IATA over unpaid debt. In November 2004, a Harare to Beijing service was started. The Beijing service flies twice weekly via Singapore. In April 2006, it was reported that passenger numbers had fallen from 1 million in 1999 to 230,000 in 2005. 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.[5]

In October 2006, prices on Air Zimbabwe flights rose 500% due to inflation increasing to over 1,000%. The Zimbabwean Central Bank said at that time it could not continue to support Air Zimbabwe and other loss-making state companies.[6] The airline has increased its domestic and international fares between 200% and 500% in an apparent attempt to stay solvent. Prices are reported by the airline to have increased due to the need to pay for fuel, spare parts, and catering with foreign currency, which is in short supply.[7]

Air Zimbabwe increased the number of flights on its Harare to London Gatwick route in October 2007 to five flights a week. This was in response to British Airways’ announcement that it would no longer fly directly to Harare. British Airways stated that their decision was due to the poor availability of aviation fuel in Zimbabwe.

Bad Publicity and Hoaxes

Air Zimbabwe has been the victim of bad publicity, most of it unfounded. In June 1999, the Chicago Tribune, a respectable American newspaper published a completely false story, in the travel section, under the headline 'Choppy Skies : A Whiteknuckle Flight on Air Zimbabwe.'

In it, the freelance reporter Gaby Plattner claimed that she had flown on Air Zimbabwe from Kariba to Hwange and flight departed without a co-pilot, who failed to arrive for unexplained reasons. She also claimed that during the flight the pilot went to the bathroom holding the door open with a rubber band. She claims they encountered turbulence and the rubber band snapped loose and the cockpit door swung shut locking out the pilot. She claimed that the pilot had to use an axe to chop down the door.

It turned out the entire story was pure fabrication based on a decades old urban legend.[8] However the reporter, who wrote the story in first person, strenuously denied that she had lied, claiming that she had personally experienced the flight. For two months the Chicago Tribune refused to publish a retraction, supporting their report.

Plattner finally admitted lying when she was presented with a printed copy of an older version of the urban legend. She admitted that nothing like what she wrote had happened to her, claiming that another passenger told her the story. She confessed that she had been 'stupid' to write a story she had heard from another passenger as her own experiences.

Both Gaby Plattner and The Chicago tribune wrote letters apologising to Air Zimbabwe and published a retraction.[9] Air Zimbabwe proceeded to file a lawsuit against the Chicago Tribune.

However the damage had been done. To this day, numerous web sites[10][11][12] including the American military[13] continue to quote the original Chicago Tribune story as if it were true.

Around the same time Air Zimbabwe also sued CNN[14], after the later ran a story claiming that Air Zimbabwe had a 12 in 100 chance of being involved in a fatal accident, characterising is as the most dangerous carrier in the world. This was during coverage of a crash by another African airline, EgyptAir.

Statistics actually show[15][16][17] that Air Zimbabwe is one of the safest airlines in the world. The only two incidents involving fatalities involved passenger airlines which were shot down towards the end of the 1970s guerilla war for Zimbabwe's liberation. Otherwise, barring these two acts of war, Air Zimbabwe has never had a fatal accident in its entire history as Air Rhodesia, Air Zimbabwe-Rhodesia or Air Zimbabwe.



The Air Zimbabwe fleet consists of the following aircraft (as of December 2007)[2] :

Air Zimbabwe Fleet
Aircraft Total Passengers
Routes Registration
Boeing 737-200 3 105 (12/93) Domestic and short haul
Boeing 767-200 2 230 (30/200) International
Xian MA60 3 60 (0\60) Domestic
BAe 146-100 No longer in Service (Mothballed due to funds to repair) 1 VIP config Presidential
Number of Aircraft 9

As of December 2009, the average age of the Air Zimbabwe fleet is 21.5 years ([1]).

Accidents and incidents

Frequent Flyer Program

The Rainbow Club is Air Zimbabwe's frequent flyer program. It offers personal and corporate accounts.


External links

{{portalbox | name1 = Zimbabwe | image1 = Flag of Zimbabwe.svg | name2 = Companies | image2 = factory 1b.svg



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