National carrier Air Zimbabwe has stepped up efforts to regain its status as a safe and reliable airline with the successful reintroduction of the Harare-Johannesburg flight.
Since the return of Air Zimbabwe, travellers have been the biggest winners as they are paying very affordable rates and enjoy a bigger baggage allowance. The return fare to Johannesburg has been slashed to US$317 return and the baggage allowance is 40kg giving travellers an opportunity to shop and ferry their goods at a reasonable cost. Other airlines that were capitalising on the absence of Air Zim over the years were charging up to US$600 for the same trip.
Management at Air Zimbabwe are on an intensive confidence building drive and have gone on a marketing offensive to lure their lost customers offering four flights to Johannesburg a week. As more travellers move over to the airline, there are plans to offer daily flights with their Boeing 767-200 aircraft.
With long-serving Captain Harry Madangure in charge, it was like reliving the good old days as the big bird took to the skies at 0700 hours on Monday morning.
Beginning with the friendly and cheery smiles of the cabin crew, the unmistakable Zimbabwean hospitality clearly emerged during the 1 hour 20 minute flight to OR Tambo International Airport.
In the midst of some of the recent acquisitions by the other airlines, the unmistakable sparkle of Air Zimbabwe was glowing. Most of the passengers aboard welcomed the warmth and comfort of the hosts albeit regaining their full confidence will definitely take some time.
For Mrs Sheana Crows who was going for a memorial service in Johannesburg, it was worth the experience as she had last flown on Air Zim a while ago.
"I am quite impressed with the experience despite the negative vibes I had heard about our airline. I am happy with the service as well as the polite and friendly staff. The special rate being offered was most welcome considering the circumstances that brought me here. Air Zimbabwe is our national airline and we will continue supporting it," she said.
Another passenger, Ms Sybil Musasa who was visiting a friend, said the service levels were high and this was in keeping with the Air Zimbabwe tradition. She said despite the presence of other competing airlines plying the same route, it was imperative that locals should have a sense of pride flying on the national airline.
"Air Zimbabwe should do more to promote the airline as it is a strong brand that has been around for some time. An aggressive marketing strategy is desirable if the intended objectives are to be met. It may take a bit of some time but the potential is definitely there and this should also include domestic flights," she said.
Businessman Mr John Manjengwa said he was excited that the national airline was back in the airspace and looked forward to good times ahead.
"The flight was wonderful. It started on time and we arrived on time. I want to encourage more people to come and enjoy the excellence of Air Zimbabwe. The future is very bright and my appeal to fellow Zimbabweans is to rally behind our national airline," he said.
Air Zimbabwe has entered into a strategic alliance with Birchwood Hotel and OR Tambo Conference Centre that is only 7km from the OR International Airport where the airline's crew is accommodated. The package will be costing US$387 and it includes; a return flight, bed and breakfast (two people sharing), transfers to the hotel and shopping mall.