Things are looking up for Air Zimbabwe (UM, Harare Int'l) with the company set to exit business rescue on June 30, the government having released funds for the acquisition of a second EMB-145LR, and the airline resuming domestic and regional flights after having been grounded since January this year.

This has been confirmed to ch-aviation by Air Zimbabwe spokesperson Firstme Vitori. She confirmed a report by state broadcaster ZBC that administrator Tonderayi Brian Mukubvu, a partner at accounting firm Grant Thornton Zimbabwe, had successfully carried out his mandate of clearing the airline’s debts and expanding its fleet. “Since our appointment as judicial managers, we have successfully managed to clear local debts with creditors and also came up with terms for clearing debts with foreign creditors. We have since acquired new aircraft and the future of Air Zimbabwe looks very bright,” Mukubvu was quoted as saying. He was not immediately available when approached for comment by ch-aviation.

As previously reported, the Zimbabwean government last month declared it would settle the carrier's US-dollar era debts at a rate of ZWL1:USD1, meaning domestic creditors, who were owed USD349 million, saw their dues devalued to ZWL349 million or around USD4 million at the official RBZ rate. Foreign creditors' claims remained pegged at USD30 million.

According to a notice to stakeholders seen by The Herald, the government on May 17 approved a scheme for the reconstruction of Air Zimbabwe.

Meanwhile, Vitori also confirmed a report by The Chronicle that the Zimbabwean government had eventually availed an undisclosed amount for the acquisition of a second EMB145LR, saying the expected deployment time frame would be communicated in due time. The aircraft will enable the airline to operate a wider regional network. The airline had initially planned to put the second regional jet into service during the second half of 2021 to re-introduce dormant regional routes to Lusaka (Zambia), Lubumbashi and Kinshasa N'Djili (both in the Democratic Republic of Congo) by the end of June 2021. For its widebody fleet, Air Zimbabwe also has two ex-Malaysia Airlines B777-200(ER)s parked in Harare alongside one operational B767-200(ER).

“We are planning to introduce the Beijing Daxing Int'l route as our first intercontinental route but we can only do that when we have a strong domestic network and we can only achieve this by having an efficient and trustable fleet, hence the procurement of this second plane is a timely boost to this transformation we are undertaking,” Vitori told the Chronicle.

Meanwhile the airline – grounded again since January 2021 because of a clampdown on intercity movement under COVID-19 lockdown regulations – will resume regional schedules between Harare Int'l and Johannesburg O.R. Tambo on June 16, 2021, initially with one-morning frequency 4x weekly, using its existing EMB145, Z-WPQ (msn 145373), Vitori said. Its last scheduled flights to Johannesburg were in March 2020.

Using the same aircraft, the airline on June 2, 2021, restarted 4x weekly domestic services on the “golden triangle” between Harare, Bulawayo, and Victoria Falls. These are the first domestic flights since Zimbabwe went into a renewed lockdown in January 2021, she said.

The Embraer jet was initially to be deployed on March 28, 2021. It was delivered to Air Zimbabwe on April 31, 2019, but was grounded while the airline completed its Know Your Customer (KYC) due diligence with the US firm that supplied the jet.

Vitori said the airline’s sole operational B737-200, Z-WPA (msn 23677), was currently operating 2x weekly between Harare and Dar es Salaam, as well as ad-hoc domestic and regional charter flights.

Since March 2020, the carrier had been operating special repatriation charters with some flights connecting or terminating in Johannesburg, using its B767-200(ER), Z-WPF (msn 24867), she said.