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Air Zimbabwe

Air Zimbabwe
IATA ICAO Callsign
Founded 1 September 1967 (1967-09-01) (as Air Rhodesia Corporation)
Salisbury, Rhodesia
Commenced operations 2 April 1980 (1980-04-02)
Frequent-flyer program Rainbow Club
Fleet size 8
Destinations 5
Company slogan Zimbabwean hospitality in the skies
Parent company Air Zimbabwe Private Limited
Headquarters Harare International Airport
Harare, Zimbabwe
Key people
Website .aero.airzimbabwewww

Air Zimbabwe (Pvt) Ltd (operating as Air Zimbabwe) is the flag carrier airline of Zimbabwe,[1] headquartered on the property of Harare International Airport,[2] in Harare.[3][4] From its hub at Harare International Airport, the carrier used to operate a network within southern Africa that also included Asia and London-Gatwick. Following financial difficulties, Air Zimbabwe ceased operations in late February 2012 (2012-02). Serving a reduced domestic network, the carrier resumed operations for a short period between May and early July 2012 (2012-07), when flights were again discontinued. Some flights were restarted on a discontinuous basis in November that year. The airline resumed operating some domestic routes as well as the regional service to Johannesburg on a daily basis in April 2013 (2013-04).

The company has been a member of the International Air Transport Association, and of the African Airlines Association since 1981.[4] As of July 2014, it is owned by the Government of Zimbabwe.[5]


  • History 1
    • Early years 1.1
    • Financial turmoil and service disruption 1.2
  • Corporate affairs 2
    • Ownership and management 2.1
    • Business trends 2.2
  • Destinations 3
    • 2011/2012 flight disruptions 3.1
    • List 3.2
  • Fleet 4
    • History and recent developments 4.1
    • Current 4.2
    • Historic 4.3
  • Accidents and incidents 5
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • Bibliography 8
  • External links 9


Early years

An Air Zimbabwe Boeing 707-320B on final approach to London Gatwick Airport in 1989.

The entity that eventually became Air Zimbabwe formally came into being on 1 September 1967, when the Government of Rhodesia created Air Rhodesia Corporation to succeed Air Rhodesia, a wholly owned subsidiary of Central African Airways Corporation (CAAC) that had existed since 1964 as a domestic airline within Rhodesia.[6][7] Following the dissolution of CAAC at the end of 1967, Air Rhodesia inherited CAAC operations,[6] as well as a fleet of Boeing, DC-3 and Viscount aircraft.[8] It became the short-lived Air Zimbabwe Rhodesia in 1978,[9] and finally Air Zimbabwe in April 1980 when the Republic of Zimbabwe was formed.[10] Services connecting Harare with South Africa (Durban and Johannesburg) had been operated before the country gained its independence.[8] Scheduled services began on 1980-4-2 to London-Gatwick.[11] The company had leased a Boeing 707 from South African Airways until May 1981 (1981-05), when three Boeing 707-320Bs were bought from Lufthansa. That year, flights to Frankfurt were inaugurated.[8] The airline recorded a ZWL 330,000 (£220,000) profit for the year that ended on 1980-6-30.[12]

In the 1980s, the carrier adopted a new aircraft livery based on the colours of the flag of Zimbabwe.[13]

During 1982, a service to Perth and Sydney commenced; it was run in cooperation with Qantas and flown with Qantas Boeing 747SP aircraft.[8] In May that year, the Government directed Air Zimbabwe and the national freighter airline Affretair to merge their operations; the freighter company was eventually taken over by Air Zimbabwe in July 1983 (1983-07).[10] The cargo carrier continued its operations under the Affretair brand. During 1983, Air Zimbabwe became a IATA member; it also extended its regional routes to Gaborone, Lilongwe, Lusaka and Nairobi.[8] It was decided in September 1982 (1982-09) that the fleet should be repainted in the national colours to replace the former Air Rhodesia livery. A new decor was designed, using green, gold, crimson and black stripes in a stepped pattern on the fuselage sides and extending halfway up the vertical fin together with a new, more recognisable Zimbabwe bird, superimposed on a red star.

By March 1985 (1985-03), Air Zimbabwe had 1,443 employees and the fleet comprised five Boeing 707-320Bs and seven Viscount 700s. At this time, the airline flew domestic services linking Harare with Buffalo Range, Bulawayo, Gweru, Hwange National Park, Kariba, Masvingo and Victoria Falls, regional services to Blantyre, Durban, Gaborone, Johannesburg, Lusaka and Nairobi, and intercontinental flights to Athens, Frankfurt and London; the Harare–Perth–Sydney route offered using Qantas Boeing 747SP aircraft was flown in association with Air Zimbabwe.[10] A Boeing 737-200 that had been leased from Maersk was returned to the lessor in 1986 and the first of three owned Boeing 737-200s was phased in and put into service in December that year; the second and third aircraft of the type were delivered in June and July 1987 (1987-07). The additional capacity permitted route extensions to Dar es Salaam, Manzini, Maputo and Mauritius. A BAe 146-200 was bought in 1987 for domestic routes.[8]

Financial turmoil and service disruption

In 2003, it was reported that the carrier was struggling financially and at the mercy of local and international banks. In February 2004 (2004-02), it was revealed that the company had been temporarily suspended by International Air Transport Association (IATA) over unpaid debts.[3][14] A foreign exchange crisis in the country led to the cancellation of the carrier's operations in late 2005, following the lack of hard currency to pay for the fuel.[15][16][17][18]

It was disclosed in 2006 that passenger numbers had fallen from 1 million in 1999 to 23,000 in 2005.[15] 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. In late October 2006 (2006-10), the prices of Air Zimbabwe tickets increased up to 500%, partly due to the inflation in the country rising to over 1,000%—at that time the Zimbabwean Central Bank stated that it could not continue supporting Air Zimbabwe and other money-losing state companies—and partly because the airline was in need of foreign currency to pay for fuel, spare parts, and catering.[19]

In May 2011 (2011-05), the airline was suspended from the international financial and booking system by IATA over unpaid booking fees.[20][21][22] It was announced in early November 2011 (2011-11) that the government would absorb a US$140 million debt in order to make the company more attractive to foreign investors.[23][24] Already in December 2011 (2011-12), the carrier struggled to provide its regional and overseas services amid aircraft impoundments over unpaid debts.[25][26][27]

In January 2012 (2012-01), the airline came under judicial management.[28][29] Following a failed revival attempt, in which the pilots refused to resume domestic services over US$35 million in unpaid salaries and allowances, it was announced on 24 February 2012 (2012-02-24) that Air Zimbabwe would be grounded indefinitely.[30][31][32] In March the same year, the government of Zimbabwe established Air Zimbabwe Private Limited as the new owner of the carrier after disbanding the airline's former parastatal owner Air Zimbabwe Holdings and absorbing a US$150 million debt.[33][34][35] The airline resumed flying on a continuous basis in early May 2012 (2012-05),[36] yet using a single aircraft and serving only three domestic destinations —Bulawayo, Harare and Victoria Falls—, and only for a short period of time until the grounding of the aircraft on 2 July 2012 (2012-07-02).[37] The airline was reactivated in late November 2012 (2012-11), with a reduced flight scheme serving the Harare–Johannesburg route.[38] Reports indicated the carrier resumed domestic operations connecting Bulawayo, Harare and Victoria Falls, as well as the regional route to Johannesburg, on a daily basis in April 2013 (2013-04),[39] ahead of the 2013 Zimbabwe International Trade Fair.[40][41]

Approximately 600 employees out of more than 1,000 had been laid off by late May 2013 (2013-05) as part of cost-cutting measures aimed at recapitalising the airline.[42] The Zimbabwe Tourism Authority revealed in June 2013 (2013-06) that the airlines' market share suffered a steep decrease in the year ended 31 December 2012 (2012-12-31), with a 0.8% participation in this period down from 27% in the same period for 2009.[43]

Corporate affairs

Ownership and management

Since March 2012 the airline has been operated through Air Zimbabwe Private Limited, which is wholly owned by the Zimbabwe Government,[33] although there have long been plans to privatise the airline in some degree.

Valentine Sinemane is the airline‍‍ '​‍s board chairman, as of April 2014.[44]

Business trends

Air Zimbabwe has been loss-making for many years, with irregular services. Although the airline is government owned, full annual reports have not been published, indeed audited accounts were last presented in 2008.[45] A few recent performance figures have been made available (for year ending 31 December), as shown below:

2013 2014
Turnover (US$m) 32
Profits (US$m) -44.8 loss
Number of employees
Number of passengers (000s) 186
Passenger load factor (%)
Number of aircraft (operational) (at year end) 3 4
Notes/sources [46] [47]


An Air Zimbabwe Boeing 767-200ER on short finals to Singapore Changi Airport in 2005.

The Harare–Beijing service was launched in November 2004 (2004-11), following an increase of the Chinese–Zimbabwean economical ties.[48] Likewise, the carrier added Kuala Lumpur to its network in 2009.[49] A capacity boost was disclosed to occur on the Harare–London-Gatwick route effective 2011-4-1.[50][51] The Harare–London route that was once served by both British Airways and Air Zimbabwe had become one of the most lucrative routes for Air Zimbabwe since the British carrier discontinued the service in 2007.[52][53]

2011/2012 flight disruptions

It was revealed in February 2011 that the airline temporarily suspended its flights to Johannesburg over likely impoundments of its planes by creditors due to unpaid debts.[54] Regional and domestic services were suspended for a short period in May 2011, following both the grounding of its Boeing 737-200 fleet by the Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe (CAAZ) over maintenance concerns,[55] and the impoundment of a leased aircraft from Zambezi Airlines over a US$460,000 unpaid debt.[56] Operations resumed in late May 2011 (2011-05), following an agreement between the two airlines,[57][58] yet the aircraft was repossessed by the owner in late June 2011 (2011-06).[59]

In mid-June 2011 (2011-06), flights to London and South Africa were temporarily suspended because of a due debt with fuel suppliers.[60] Owing both to the grounding of the 737-200 fleet and to fuel shortages in the country, domestic services were suspended and regional flights were operated on an irregular basis.[61][62] The airline started regularising medium- and short-haul operations in July 2011 (2011-07), as it got clearance from the CAAZ to operate one of its three grounded 737-200.[63][64]

Operations were discontinued again in late July 2011 (2011-07), this time due to a pilots' strike, resuming in mid-September after a 50-day-long strike.[65][66][67] Once again, overseas and domestic flights were temporarily cancelled in early November 2011 (2011-11), this time owing to an unpaid debt with fuel providers.[23][68][69] Overseas routes resumed on 11 November 2011 (2011-11-11).[70] However, flights to the United Kingdom and South Africa were suspended in January 2012 (2012-01) over likely impoundments of the airline's aircraft for outstanding debts.[71][72]


Following is a list of destinations Air Zimbabwe flies to, according to its scheduled services, as of January 2015.[73] Terminated destinations are also shown.


History and recent developments

An Air Zimbabwe Fokker 50 at Victoria Falls Airport in 1995.
Belly of an Air Zimbabwe Boeing 767-200ER, just departed from Singapore Changi Airport. The aircraft wears the carrier's latest eurowhite livery in 2011.
Air Zimbabwe MA60 aircraft in 2009

Two Viscount 800s were purchased from Dan-Air in the early 1980s, in order to replace the Viscount 700s inherited from Air Rhodesia that were near the end of their life and also rendered too small for some services; these aircraft flew for the company until their retirement in 1989.[79] In September 1980 (1980-09), an agreement for the purchase of three Boeing 707-320B was signed with Lufthansa; the first aircraft arrived at Salisbury on 19 February 1981. Subsequently, the order was increased to five aircraft.

The initial fleet of five Boeing 707s sourced from Lufthansa replaced the Boeing 720 aircraft used by Air Rhodesia. These 707s joined the Vickers Viscount fleet, that was strengthened by the addition of two Viscounts 810s from Dan Air.[80] The airline saw the incorporation of the Boeing 737-200 into the fleet in 1985.[81] Three Boeing 737 aircraft were ordered from Boeing in the mid-1980s to enhance regional routes.

Long-haul operations that were once operated with the 707s were gradually shifted to the newly acquired Boeing 767-200ER equipment; the first of them entered the fleet in late 1989.[82] A British Aerospace BAe 146 was added to the fleet from the Zimbabwean 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.[83] The BAe 146 had been subsequently grounded.

In 2005 the airline leased two MA-60 turboprops from China, which were later supplemented by a third donated example in 2006, to operate domestic and short regional routes.

In April 2006 (2006-04), it was announced that the Zimbabwean Government would order five Ilyushin Il-96s aircraft —two passenger and three freighter versions— from Russia,[84] in order to replace the company's ageing Boeing 767 long-haul fleet. After talks with Russian authorities, the order was cancelled. Likewise, in late 2010 the airline announced it had ordered two Airbus A340-500s to serve both the Harare–Beijing and the Harare–London routes;[85] the order was later cancelled after the company failed to raise the money.[86]

In late June 2011 (2011-06), Air Zimbabwe was forced to return the Boeing 737-500 it was hiring from Zambezi Airlines to partially compensate the lack of equipment following the grounding of its Boeing 737-200 fleet,[55] as it was unable to afford the costs of its leasing.[59] The aircraft was mainly used to operate the Harare–Johannesburg route; it was disclosed the company had to fly the route using one of their Boeing 767s.[59]

Despite versions for the acquisition of new aircraft were officially declined in July 2011 owing to a precarious cash position,[87] it was disclosed that the airline bought an Airbus A340-500 and an Airbus A320, both new, in August 2011.[88] As of January 2012, there had been discrepant versions over the acquisition of new Airbus aircraft, since the secretary of the Zimbabwean Ministry of Transport has denied the transaction,[89] but there exist records for the delivery of an A320 to the company.[90][91] The introduction of A320 services was informed in May 2013 (2013-05),[92] when it replaced the Boeing 767s on the Harare–Johannesburg route.[93][94]


As of July 2015, the Air Zimbabwe fleet consists of the following aircraft:[95]


The airline has operated the following equipment in the past:

Accidents and incidents

According to Aviation Safety Network,[98] the company has not had an accident involving fatalities since Air Rhodesia was renamed Air Zimbabwe in 1980. The only hull-loss accident is listed below.

In June 1999 the Chicago Tribune published a story, later withdrawn, in which the reporter Gaby Plattner claimed she had flown from Kariba to Hwange on an Air Zimbabwe service, and that the flight departed without a co-pilot, and during the flight the pilot was locked out of the cockpit, and had to use an axe to chop down the door. The newspaper later stated that this story was untrue.[101] The carrier then sued the Chicago Tribune and also CNN, after it ran a story claiming it was the most dangerous airline in the world.[102]

See also


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  103. ^ Karnozov, Vladimir (25 April 2006). "Russia brokers jet exports".  


  • Guttery, Ben R. (1998). Encyclopedia of African Airlines. Jefferson, North Carolina 28640: Mc Farland & Company, Inc.  

External links

  • Air Zimbabwe Official website
  • "Air Zimbabwe Timetable (Effective 1 June 2013)". Air Zimbabwe. Archived from the original on 8 August 2013. 
  • "Intercontinental and regional carriers look to serve Zimbabwe in absence of national carrier". Centre for Aviation. 16 January 2012. Archived from the original on 21 April 2012. 
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