Air Zimbabwe's only operational plane impounded at OR Tambo airport over debt

24 October 2019 - 14:34 By LENIN NDEBELE
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Air Zimbabwe. File photo.
Air Zimbabwe. File photo.
Image: Reuters

The Airports Company of South Africa (Acsa) has impounded an aircraft owned by Air Zimbabwe over debt.

Insiders at Air Zimbabwe told TimesLIVE that one of the national airline’s aircraft, a Boeing 767-200, was impounded at Johannesburg's OR Tambo International Airport on Wednesday.

This comes as Air Zimbabwe was suspended from using the airport due to non-payment of debt.

Air Zimbabwe owes Acsa payments for landing, parking  and passenger services for flights into Johannesburg.

As a result of the suspension by Acsa, Air Zimbabwe could not operate its Johannesburg-Harare flight on Wednesday and this resulted in some passengers failing to travel while others were accommodated on other airlines.

The seizure of Air Zimbabwe’s aircraft in South Africa, which is the airline’s only operational aircraft after all of its planes were grounded, forced it to cancel its Harare-Johannesburg flight on Thursday, including its domestic flights between Harare-Bulawayo and Victoria Falls.  

Air Zimbabwe spokesperson Tafadzwa Mazonde confirmed the seizure of the aircraft and stated that airline officials were engaging Acsa to release the aircraft.

“That’s what is happening. It’s a temporary suspension over a cumulative debt. We are in discussion with our shareholder and we are hopeful that we will find a solution,” said Mazonde.

“As a cash client, Air Zimbabwe is required to settle on each Monday the amounts owing for landing fees, parking fees and the passenger service charge for its weekly flights, as well as an amount towards settling arrears on its account,” said Acsa spokesperson Trevor Jones.

“Air Zimbabwe has not adhered to the cash basis terms for using airports owned by Airports Company South Africa. The company informed Air Zimbabwe by letter on October 18 that that it will not be allowed to depart from any of Airports Company South Africa’s nine airports and that the prohibition will remain in place until outstanding amounts are settled,” he said.

Apart from Acsa, Air Zimbabwe has over the years had aircraft seized by creditors — including Bid Air Services in South Africa and American General Suppliers in London — for debts which it had neglected to pay.

The seizure of the aircraft is a new low for the airline which has over the years broken records, including flying with only one passenger, as it struggles to restore customer confidence after successive years of mismanagement.

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