'Air Zim struggling to pay Iata debt'

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HARARE – Hard-pressed national airline, Air Zimbabwe (Air Zim), is struggling to pay $3,5 million it owes the International Air Transport Association (Iata), Parliament’s transport committee has said.

Iata suspended Air Zim from its account settlement system in 2012 due to non-payment of fees, dealing a major blow to the airline that has been battling to stay afloat for years.

The association’s system settles accounts between the world’s airlines, airline-associated companies and travel agencies.

In a 2017 budget allocation report presented to Parliament, the transport committee’s chairperson, Dexter Nduna, said government’s directive that all of its officials must use Air Zim for external travel was not feasible, as the airline is not registered with Iata.

“It was brought to the attention of this committee that despite the government directive that officials must use Air Zim, the measure would not derive the intended benefit since the airline is not registered with Iata due to an outstanding $3,5 million in fees,” Nduna said.

“Consequently, the national airline is hamstrung in the number of routes that it plies,” he said.

“Furthermore, the non-registration with Iata also works against the open skies policy being pursued by the airline. Opening the airline to such competition while hamstrung will drive it into extinction.”

About 240 airlines, representing approximately 84 percent of global airline traffic, are registered with Iata.

According to Nduna, Iata is important for Air Zim’s growth and the failure to pay the dues has exacerbated the airline’s isolation.

“Iata is a group that offers alliances, partnerships and air finances and it means that Air Zimbabwe is now in isolation. Iata enables Air Zimbabwe to have partnerships with other countries and you must know that this is very important for the growth of our airline,” he said.

Nduna said the rehabilitation of the airport radar systems was also being delayed.

“(The) committee also inquired on the status of rehabilitation of the airport radar systems. The officials informed (the) committee that progress had been delayed by legal processes that nullified the previous tender award.”

“The committee was assured that a call for tenders for both financing and rehabilitation of the radar systems will be made this year,” he said.

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