Zimbabwe’s national carrier, Air Zimbabwe has responded to the decision of the European Union (EU) to blacklist them from operating in EU skies.
Whiles the company in a statement to the British broadcaster, BBC, said it was working to reverse the ban within the shortest possible time, the sector minister has told a different story to state-affiliated Herald newspaper.
Air Zimbabwe told the BBC that it was currently not flying to Europe and that it was modernizing its systems ‘‘in line with current best practise.’‘
It should be noted that the ban is on two specific aircraft that fly long haul to Europe. The airline has not been banned from flying into Europe. If we correct that, the ban on the two planes will be lifted.
The Herald, however, quotes Transport and Infrastructural Minister, Dr. Joram Gumbo, as saying only two long-haul flights of Air Zimbabwe had temporarily been banned from servicing European routes.
‘‘It should be noted that the ban is on two specific aircraft that fly long haul to Europe. The airline has not been banned from flying into Europe. If we correct that, the ban on the two planes will be lifted,’‘ Gumbo said.
He said the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) operator audits passed the airline on 10 out of 12 safety items which needed to be addressed. The airline has between now and November to have the ban reversed.
The latest blacklist of airlines from EU skies was contained in the EU Commission’s Air Safety List which cited the inability of Air Zimbabwe to meet international safety standards, ‘’…they are therefore subject to an operating ban or operational restrictions within the European Union.’‘
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The airline, owned by the Zimbabwean government, is debt-ridden to a reported tune of $300 million.
Air Zimbabwe was one of two national carriers on the latest blacklist which comprised six other airlines as follows: Iran Aseman Airlines (Iran), Iraqi Airways (Iraq) and Blue Wing Airlines (Suriname), Med-View Airlines (Nigeria), Mustique Airways (St Vincent and the Grenadines), Aviation Company Urga (Ukraine).
With the latest updates which took effect on May 16, 2017, a total of 181 airlines are banned from EU skies.
In some good news for the continent, airlines from Benin and Mozambique were removed from the blacklist following successful reforms as expected by the EU region’s safety concerns.
In October last year, Zimbabweans took to social media to vent their displeasure at the decision of Air Zimbabwe to appoint a son-in-law of President Mugabe as Chief Operating Officer (COO) of the struggling airline. Simba Chikore is married to Mugabe’s only daughter Bona.