Bankrupt Air Zim may cancel SA flights

Harare - Zimbabwe’s state-owned carrier Air Zimbabwe might cancel flights to South Africa because its planes could be impounded in Johannesburg over unpaid bills, aviation sources said on Monday.

The airline has been banned from numerous destinations for non-payment of landing rights.

But debts to a South African baggage handling company have piled up to such an extent that daily flights from Harare to Johannesburg might end.

Last Friday, an Air Zimbabwe Boeing 737-500 plane was impounded at OR Tambo airport near Johannesburg for several hours.

Bid Air Services, the main baggage handling company in South Africa, seized the plane after Air Zimbabwe failed to pay $500 000 to clear unpaid bills.

“A forklift truck was parked at the back of the plane so it couldn’t leave,” an Air Zimbabwe engineer told DPA.

Passengers had to walk to the terminal building because no buses were provided.

The airline continued flying to and from Johannesburg over the weekend and on Monday, but sources would not say whether flights would continue into Tuesday.

The cash crunch also impacted Europe and Asia-bound flights this past weekend, when the airline’s two Boeing 767 long-haul aircraft couldn’t fly to London and Beijing because of “unavailability of funds to purchase fuel”, a senior member of Air Zimbabwe staff said.

On several previous occasions, passengers on board have been asked by the airline’s crew for donations to pay for fuel or landing rights.

Huge debts and mismanagement have brought Air Zimbabwe to its current crisis.
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