The Zimbabwean Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure Development says it has entered into talks with Airbus (AIB, Toulouse Blagnac) and Boeing (BOE, Washington National) over their proposed leasing of aircraft to Air Zimbabwe (UM, Harare International).

Air Zimbabwe has been searching for a strategic partner willing to invest into the cash-strapped national carrier. Among their priorities will be to refleet the airline whose fleet of two A320-200s (one of out service), two B737-200Advs, two B767-200(ER)s, and one MA-60 now averages 23.3 years of age.

Airline CEO Edmund Makona has alluded to the use of either A330s or B787s for its widebody needs while both regional jets and B737s have been identified for its narrowbody requirements.

“Our planes are now very old and we are operating at a loss," Transport and Infrastructure Development Deputy Minister, Michael Madanha, told The Herald newspaper. "First move would be to look for planes to lease and then we can partner somebody. No one can partner you if you have a lot of debts. We have also engaged the Ethiopian Airlines (ET, Addis Ababa International), TAAG Angola Airlines (DT, Luanda 4 De Fevereiro) and negotiations for public private partnerships ( which is the only way to go) are in progress."

Government, the sole shareholder, has pledged to waive a law capping foreign ownership in local firms at 49% in a bid to secure a strategic investor for the struggling airline.

Meanwhile, the CEO of the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA), Karikoga Kaseke, has lambasted government for its predatory attitude towards the airline's survival.

Speaking to Reuters affiliate, The Source, Kaseke said government's demand that Kenya Airways (KQ, Nairobi Jomo Kenyatta) pay Air Zimbabwe royalties in return for the opening up of a 5th Freedom Victoria Falls-Cape Town International sector had forced the Kenyans to switch to neighbouring Livingstone in Zambia instead. Situated on either side of the Zambezi river, the towns of Victoria Falls and Livingstone offer easy access to the Victoria Falls waterfalls as well surrounding game reserves.

“Kenyan Airways now flies into Livingstone because we refused to allow them into Victoria Falls. This was because we wanted them to pay royalties to Air Zimbabwe, which they refused to accept,” he said. “They wanted to fly into Victoria Falls seven times a week and had to move to Livingstone, which was their plan B, after failing to land here and now we have multitudes of tourists who could have come directly to Zimbabwe going to Zambia.”