Air Zimbabwe pilots have gone on strike again over unpaid salaries and allowances, bringing the flag carrier’s operations to a halt. Pilots went on strike on Friday demanding they be paid their June and July salaries and allowances.
Air Zimbabwe acting chief executive officer, Moses Mapanda, told The Zimbabwe Guardian on Friday that negotiations with the pilots were underway but until the issue was resolved there would be no air services.
Only the pilots went on strike as all other staff were at work. “We have not been able to pay the pilots their June and July salaries and allowances, so that is what they are demanding,” Mapanda said.
Air Zimbabwe operates a daily Harare-Johannesburg route, a twice-weekly flight to London and a weekly flight to Beijing as its only international routes. All flights from Harare International Airport were suspended due to the strike while Air Zimbabwe re-scheduled some other flights, including the Harare-Beijing route.
“I was supposed to have flown to London from Johannesburg on Friday. I could not fly yesterday and it is the same story today,” Hendricks Dube said, threatening never to use the airline again.
The strike affecting Air Zimbabwe is just one of many crises to hit the cash-strapped state owned airline.
In mid-June, Air Zimbabwe cancelled flights to London and South Africa after fuel suppliers demanded up front cash payments until the carrier settled its debts. Apparently, the carrier owed 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.
From May 18 Air Zimbabwe’s flights came to a halt for a week as the aircraft it was leasing from Zambezi Airlines was withdrawn over an unpaid US$460 000 debt.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. Pilots were protesting unpaid salaries and allowances dating back to February last year, amounting to approximately US$9 million.