HARARE – A new commercial airline, Rainbow Airlines (Rainbow), this week made its inaugural flights on the Harare-Johannesburg and Harare-Victoria Falls routes, offering competition to the struggling national carrier.
Rainbow chief executive Ed Berry said the airline was also earmarking the Harare-Cape Town route, adding the company is expecting to get a second 50-seat Bombardier CRJ100 from a technical partner.
“We are expecting the aircraft within the first four months of operation, to assist in servicing increased routes and frequencies.
“Rainbow has gone into a business relationship with CemAir Ltd, a privately-owned airline operating in South Africa, which services popular destinations and leases aircraft to other airlines across Africa and the Middle East,” Berry said.
The airline, which has been promising to begin operations since August 2015, now has a new financing deal after its founders got stunted with financial hurdles.
According to GMRI Capital — a local finance and investment advisory firm which structured the Rainbow Airlines equity and capital injection deal — Rainbow now has a new investor following the financial glitches.
The airline’s new deal has seen an investment into the business, now running beyond $1 million, and a sale of equity of 70 percent to an
institutional investor with the other 30 percent reportedly held by a Harare-based medical doctor.
Berry said there were prospects the airline will service other routes including the Harare to Nairobi, Harare to Lubumbashi and Kinshasa, Harare to Durban, Bulawayo to Johannesburg, Harare to Beira and Maputo.
“Later, international destinations and more domestic routes will be applied for, these will include Harare to Kariba, Bulawayo, Mutare, Hwange, Masvingo, Buffalo Range and Beitbridge,” he said.
Initially, when it failed to fly, Rainbow claimed operations had been dragged down by lack of appropriate papers from South Africa.
In July 2015, the then-Rainbow chief executive, Frank Humbe, announced that the carrier was to introduce two flights per day for the Harare to Johannesburg route in August 2015, adding a local flight from Harare to Victoria Falls was to be introduced by January 2016.
Humbe said the group also planned to increase frequency of the Johannesburg route, highlighting that the company was leasing one plane from South African airline company, Star Cargo, with the then-Rainbow boss claiming the Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe (Caaz) had granted the company its flying certificate.
Despite this, the airline still failed to take off.
While more and more little-known airlines have been licensed by the authorities, latest government figures show that out of the 30 licensed, none has been operational with some having been registered for 10 years.
Some locally-owned airlines that have struggled to fly after being licensed include Sol Air, Fly Kumba, Fresh Air and Royal Air.