FIVE airlines have applied to start flying into Zimbabwe this year, in a development that could see increased traffic and revenue for the tourism sector, The Financial Gazette's Companies & Market (C& M) heard this week.
The airlines are Air France, Bulgarian Airlines, Austrian Airlines, Egypt Air and Swiss Air.
Responding to questions from C& M, the Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe's (CAAZ) public relations and communications manager, Annajlia Hungwe, said: "Any applicant who meets the requirements will be allo-wed/granted permission to ply the Zimbabwe route."
"At present, 14 foreign airlines that comprise of 13 passenger airlines and one cargo airline are flying into Zimbabwe," Hungwe said.
He said airlines always make enquiries to States for route expansion or commencement.
"We really cannot give a list of those who have made enquiries because the information will still be on the table and once it is public,we can give it out," Hungwe said.
RwandAir, Rwanda's state-owned national airline plans to fly to Harare and Cape Town, South Africa later this year as part of its expansion programme the company's chief executive officer John Mirenge said recently.
RwandAir, which started flying in 2002, operates a fleet of two Boeing Co 737-800s, two Boeing 737-500s, two Bombardier Inc CRJ-900 NextGens and a Bombardier Dash-8 100 that serve 12 destinations, according to Mirenge.
He said this year the airline will take delivery of two Boeing 737-700s as it retires the 737-500s. The new aircraft will provide feeder flights that connect passengers arriving in Rwanda to destinations including Johannesburg, Lagos and Dubai, Mirenge said. Rwanda's government owns 99 percent of RwandAir.
C&M understands that the five airlines, which had plied the Zimbabwe route before an economic crisis that disrupted all normal economic activities and triggered commodity shortages, including jet fuel, still have their bilateral air services agreement in place as these were never cancelled when they stopped flying into the country.
Sources indicated that most of these airlines could start flying into Zimbabwe before the United Nations World Tourism Organi-sation (UNWTO) General Assembly scheduled for August this year.
Aviation industry sources said it takes less than a month to approve an airline application in a case where Bilateral Air Service Agreements (Basa) were still in place.
No airline with a bilateral air service agreement has been denied permission to fly into Zimbabwe. Basa are agreements entered into between two states outlining provisions for the establishment of air services between them. It is a requirement under the Chicago Convention.
Air Zimbabwe is also making plans to ensure that it remains relevant in the event of new airlines flying into Zimbabwe's skies.
Addressing a Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Transport and Communication recently, Air Zimbabwe's acting chief executive officer, Innocent Mavhunga, said airbuses that the national airline recently leased should start flying in April in preparation for the UNWTO in August.
He said government had chosen the planes over Boeing models because they were readily available. He also said they were low on fuel consumption than Boeings. It costs US$410 000 a month to lease the two planes.
The planes are not yet flying as they have not been fully registered with CAAZ. Mavhunga said the costs of the changeover to Airbus from Boeing would be about US$1 million.
He said some of the costs included taking pilots and engineers to Spain for training and re-equipping the hangars.
Mavhunga said the IATA process should be complete in March but the airline still requires about US$3,5 million for immediate debt obligations.
A total of 18 international airlines left the country at the height of a political and economic crisis that ended with formation of an inclusive government and dollarisation in 2009.
These include Lufthansa, Qantas, Austrian Airlines, Swiss-air, Air India, Air France and TAP Air Portugal.
African airlines that no longer fly into Harare include Egyptair, Air Mauritius, Linhas Aereas de Mocambique, Air Namibia, Royal Swazi Airlines and Air Seychelles. Air Tanzania, Ghana Airways, Air Uganda and Air Cameroon also pulled out of the route.