29 October 2007

Zimbabwe: Country Increasingly Isolated As British Airways Pulls Out

British Airways finally pulled out of Zimbabwe on Sunday, amid reports that Ethiopian airlines has indicated it will also pull out of the Harare route in two weeks' time.

The last flight flew out of Harare at 9am Sunday, effectively ending 62 years of service from London. BA was the last foreign long-haul airline still flying to Zimbabwe. Eight years ago 18 foreign airlines used to fly direct to Harare, until passengers started shunning the country owing to security concerns and the collapse of the economy.

Two months ago, BA announced its intention of terminating the service, citing serious viability problems. The regime's supporters insist the pull out had nothing to do with the collapse of the economy but was a British government plot to unseat Robert Mugabe.

But the MDC's secretary for Transport and Communications, Seiso Moyo, went straight to the point when he said 'the chickens have come home to roost'. The pull out has been totally ignored by the local media.

'If you do something inappropriate or wicked, like what the government has done in the last seven years, the consequences come back to you eventually, you get what you deserve,' Moyo said.

Zimbabwean journalist Jan Raath said the pull out by British Airways was a major blow to the country's travel and tourism industry as Air Zimbabwe would be unable to fill in the gap. BA used to fly three times a week to Harare.

'Air Zimbabwe has only got two long-haul planes that service two other major routes to China and Singapore, apart from the Harare-London route. What makes it worse is that one plane is constantly pulled out of service for presidential trips, leaving one plane in service. And we have often seen flights being delayed, disruptions and cancelled as a result,' Raath said.

Writing for the Times in London, Raath said Sunday's flight with 200 passengers aboard the Boeing 777 left without any acknowledgement of the occasion, but he said the captain of the incoming flight from London had remarked over the intercom at how sad he felt not to be able to fly in and out of Harare any more.

Meanwhile there are fears Air Zimbabwe may face a ban from European skies if it fails an audit carried out by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) last week.

ZimOnline reports that all was not well at Air Zimbabwe over the IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) that ran from the 23rd to the 26th of October.

The audit, 'a must pass' is an internationally accepted evaluation system that is designed to assess the operational management and control systems of an airline. Airlines seeking to fly into Europe are required to pass the audit before flying into the region.

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