Mack Air (MKB, Maun) has signed a strategic partnership agreement with Air Zimbabwe (UM, Harare Int'l) in which the Botswana-based charter specialist will avail Cessna (single turboprop) 208B Grand Caravan EX capacity to the Zimbabwean national carrier for 9th Freedom domestic Zimbabwean flights.

A joint statement issued on July 4 said the tie-up aims to develop operational synergies as well as a commercial partnership between the two airlines.

Under the "Flame Lily Hoppa" initiative, Air Zimbabwe will use its E145 to relaunch routes covering Zimbabwe, Botswana, South Africa, and Mozambique regionally as well as Victoria Falls, Harare Int'l, Kariba, Hwange National Park, and Chiredzi/Buffalo Range domestically. Mack Air will, in turn, provide onward last-mile connectivity on an anticipated per seat basis to Zimbabwe's wide array of safari and bush camps.

Both Mack Air and Air Zimbabwe will assist in upgrading Kariba and Hwange airports - gateways to two major safari areas that have been underexploited since Zimbabwe's international image started to tarnish in the early 2000s.

In an effort to boost local tourism and thus drive up revenue, Air Zimbabwe has, at various points over the past decade or so, attempted to relaunch its once vast domestic network. The most recent attempt came in 2014 when it used its now-mothballed fleet of three MA-60s to resume flights to Kariba as well as Buffalo Range (gateway to Gonarezhou National Park) and Masvingo (gateway to Great Zimbabwe). However, weak demand soon forced the project's abandonment.

Since then, Air Zimbabwe's domestic network has focussed on connecting Harare with Bulawayo and Victoria Falls.

For its part, Mack Air has extensive experience in the tourism business. From its base in Maun in Botswana's Okavango Delta, it currently operates seventeen Cessna Grand Caravan EXs as well as a Citation M2 Jet on flights covering the popular Okavango, Kalahari and surrounding tourist areas.