Air Zimbabwe cancels foreign flights due to fuel supply problems

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Air Zimbabwe has cancelled flights to London and South Africa after fuel suppliers demanded up front cash payments until the debt-ridden carrier has settled its debts.

VOA news reported that on Wednesday and Thursday foreign flights were cancelled and passengers put onto other aircraft. Apparently, the carrier owes US$1.6 million to fuel suppliers.
“We had no option besides to cancel the London flights because suppliers refused to give us fuel for the trip,” an Air Zimbabwe manager told AFP on condition that he was not named.

The crisis affecting Air Zimbabwe is just one of many to hit the cash-strapped state owned airline. Air Zimbabwe’s flights came to a halt for a week starting May 18 as the aircraft it was leasing from Zambezi Airlines was withdrawn over an unpaid US$460 000 debt. In March Air Zimbabwe leased a Boeing 737-500 from Zambia’s Zambezi Airlines.

On May 15 the International Air Transport Association (IATA) suspended Air Zimbabwe from flight booking services as Air Zimbabwe had not paid US$280 000 of the debt it owes the organisation. Air Zimbabwe continued flying, using its own booking facilities. More than 50 percent of the airline’s customers book through travel agents.

Air Zimbabwe is crippled with more than US$100 million of debt, some of it accrued from a nearly month long strike between March 22 and April 20, the second to hit the carrier in the last year. Pilots were protesting unpaid salaries and allowances dating back to February last year, amounting to approximately US$9 million.



Harare economist Charles Mutasa told VOA reporter Jonga Kandemiiri that the only way to save the state carrier is for the government to privatise it.