Zimbabwe Airways close to securing 6 jets

Zimbabwe Airways close to securing 6 jets
Published: 30 July 2017 (718 Views)
ZIMBABWE AIRWAYS - the new debt-free Phoenix rising out of the ashes of Air Zimbabwe - is in advanced talks with a Brazilian company to lease five aircraft to service underserved regional routes, it has been learnt.

Government said last negotiations were ongoing but would not name the lessor.

However, sources told The Sunday Mail Business that the firm in question could be ECC Leasing, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Brazil's Embraer.

Embraer established ECC in 2002 to manage and market its pre-owned aircraft.

The Brazilian aerospace conglomerate is the world's third largest civil aircraft manufacturer, and supplies companies like Fastjet with equipment ideal for budget and low-cost services.

The 48-year-old Embraer raked in more US$6 billion in revenues in 2015, and produces the EMB (suitable for the military), ERJ 145 (50 passengers), Legacy 600 (263 passengers), Lineage (21 passengers), LR and Phenom.

In 2013, Air Zimbabwe leased its first 50-seater Embraer jet from Johannesburg-based Solenta Aviation and used it for domestic routes.

On April 4 the following year, Government announced its intention to lease two more Embraer jets for local and regional destinations.

Keeping mum

But last week Transport and Infrastructure Development Minister Dr Joram Gumbo said Government had "not spoken to Embraer".

"The issue at hand is that the planes that I think we may lease are Embraers because they are small and they carry about 50 passengers.

"I can't afford long-haul aircrafts for the region. I am in the middle of negotiations to lease planes; that is a fact. I realised that partnerships may give use headaches . . . I want to keep the national flag (on the planes), so leasing would be ideal . . . The negotiations are very advanced at the moment," he said.

ECC Leasing's director corporate of communications for Europe, the Middle East and Africa Mr Guy Douglas would neither confirm nor deny any deal.

"Thank you for contacting me with your questions. However, we do not comment on speculation or rumour. Sorry I am unable to help further," said Mr Douglas.

Milk run

Government indicated last week that it was also looking at long-haul planes.

Dr Gumbo said: "I am looking for long-haul planes. I want the long-haul planes to do long distance routes such as London-Harare, Harare-Dubai, Harare-Kuala Lumpur, Harare-Cape Town and Harare-Lagos.

"But as I look for those long-haul planes, I am looking for a minimum of six smaller planes to ply regional routes. These smaller planes would feed passengers into the long-haul aircrafts that would be plying long distance routes."

For four years, Air Zimbabwe was considering re-introducing a milk run — an air service that includes Harare, Bulawayo, Hwange, Victoria Falls and Kariba — to facilitate efficient services. Government has also wants to fly to regional routes like Angola, the DRC, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia and Zambia; and international destinations the UAE and Singapore.

"When our flights brought passengers at Harare International Airport, (long haul planes) would carry them to London, Dubai, Singapore, Nigeria and Cape Town.

"That is what I am trying to do because I can't just have beautiful airports and fail to have a good plan for them. So those are my plans," explained Dr Gumbo.

In November last year, Government commissioned the refurbished Victoria Falls International Airport and plans are underway to spruce up Harare International Airport.

Victoria Falls International Airport can now handle wide-bodied aircraft such as the Boeing 747, Airbus A330, and can cater for 1,5 million passengers a year.

Phoenix rising

Cabinet's recent decision to hive off more than US$334 million in legacy debt that was weighing down Air Zimbabwe will allow the new entity to reinvent itself. Restructuring is not limited to the flag carrier alone as other critical State-owned enterprises like the Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe, Ziscosteel and the National Railways of Zimbabwe recently had their debts inherited by Government. Cumulatively, the parastatals owed more than US$1 billion, and restructuring the balance sheets will prime them for investment.

Apart from Zimbabwe Airways, the changes have brought signs of recovery at the National Railways of Zimbabwe, with a recent tender attracting suitors willing to partner it in reviving its operations.

- sundaymail

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