Air Zimbabwe (UM, Harare Int'l) has initiated talks with an unspecified Malaysia-based firm over the proposed lease of a B787 the Financial Gazette has reported.

Although its pair of twenty-seven year-old B767-200(ER)s have only reached half of their operational cycles, their performance, as well as their poor in-flight product, are seen as a hinderance to the state-owned carrier's ability to recapture longhaul market share lost to the likes of Emirates (EK, Dubai Int'l), Ethiopian Airlines (ET, Addis Ababa), Kenya Airways (KQ, Nairobi Jomo Kenyatta), and South African Airways (SA, Johannesburg O.R. Tambo).

According to the Financial Gazette, Zimbabwean Minister of Transport, Communication and Infrastructure Development, Joram Gumbo, ministry officials, a team of aviation experts and airline top management accompanied nonagenarian president Robert Mugabe during a working visit to Malaysia earlier this month to scout for aircraft for the national carrier.

Gumbo also confirmed ongoing talks with an undisclosed third party over technical assistance for Air Zimbabwe. ch-aviation understands Ethiopian Airlines (ET, Addis Ababa) to be involved in the process with a team of Zimbabwean airline executives and experts having visited Addis Ababa in recent weeks for consultative talks.

Although debt-ridden Air Zimbabwe is eager to resume flights to destinations such as London Gatwick and Guangzhou given increasing pressure on the domestic and regional market fronts, it has been unable to do so given the threat of aircraft seizure by creditor firms, in the United Kingdom in particular.

Recently appointed CEO Rington Muzenda has said the airline is on the look out for a financial partner willing to help turnaround Air Zimbabwe and to help recapitalize it to the tune of USD500 million.

“We need USD465,000 for rehabilitation of buildings, hangar fire equipment (USD1.8 million) and airline retooling and spares (USD6.4 million), as well as USD488 million to pay laid-off staff,” he told The Standard newspaper this weekend.

Aside from the two B767-200(ER)s which it owns, Air Zimbabwe also operates two B737-200Advs, two A320-200s (both leased from China Sonangol International (Hong Kong Int'l) but only one of which is operational) and one MA-60 on flights to Bulawayo, Kariba, and Victoria Falls locally and Johannesburg O.R. Tambo, Lusaka and Dar-es-Salaam regionally.