I have a fond memory of flying a very, very, very empty Air Zimbabwe 737-400 from Victoria Falls to Johannesburg during my honeymoon roughly two hundred zillion years ago. My then-new wife and I, along with 4 other people, spread out across the old bird and enjoyed the quick hop with little fanfare. I mostly remember that part of the trip for when a taxi driver dropped us at Victoria Falls Airport and remarked how nice it looked. The taxi driver said, “Oh, wait til you get inside – there’s nothing in it,” which was correct and summed up the craziness of that country.
About a year and a half ago Air Zimbabwe closed down, its last jet seized by creditors leaving the once-great nation without an airline (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, given how poorly Air Zimbabwe had been run).
But that’s not stopping the little airline that could from relaunching. The Wall Street Journal has a piece today (or if you don’t have a subscription, Google “Air Zimbabwe Tries to Get Back on Its Feet” for a free link) about the airline re-starting service to Johannesburg. The website also says they fly to Bulawayo (also summing up Zimbabwe: there is an online booking tool, but it’s broken). Yet another part of the website mentions flights to Beijing, which clearly isn’t possible, as their 767 has been sezied for quite some time.
The resurgence, which an airline spokesman says has led to 90% load factors (hahahahahahaha, maybe), is due in part to $10 million in government aid propping up the carrier, and a resurgence in foreign tourism (Zimbabwe is cheaper than neighboring Zambia, though I feel like I’m splitting hairs when I write that). They even hope to resume flights to London come November.
With the (slow) growth of (a handful of) budget airlines in Africa (Fly540, etc), it’s hard to believe that government-supported unprofitable messes like Air Zimbabwe still exist (I’m looking at you, Air Gabon 747)