Air Zimbabwe’s only Embraer ERJ145 finally completed its first commercial flight on Wednesday – more than two years after it was delivered to Harare.
The aircraft, with a capacity of 50 passengers and a range of up to 2,873km – was acquired by the ill-fated Zimbabwe Airways which the government hoped would rise from the ruins of the debt-ridden Air Zimbabwe – complicating procedures for securing a clearance for it to fly.
Air Zimbabwe will use the Embraer for domestic flights, freeing up its workhorse Boeing 737 for regional flights to Johannesburg and Tanzania. The airline also has an ageing Boeing 767 for overseas flights, but it currently has no routes.
The Embraer, which is cheaper to fly, took off from Harare at midday and landed back at around 3.30PM after stops in Bulawayo and Victoria Falls.
Owing to subdued business under Covid-19 conditions, Air Zimbabwe says it will initially fly four-days-a-week between Harare, Bulawayo and Victoria Falls.
Flights take off from Harare at 12PM, arriving in Bulawayo at 12.45PM. The aircraft takes off from Bulawayo at 1.15PM landing in Victoria Falls at 2PM. It completes the triangle when it departs Victoria Falls at 2.30PM and lands in Harare at 3.30PM.
In 2018, Air Zimbabwe had a debt of US$370 million, some US$30 million of it being foreign liabilities.
The government of former President Robert Mugabe had planned to kill-off Air Zimbabwe, and in its place start a new a debt-free airline called Zimbabwe Airways.
Zimbabwe Airways had bought the Embraer and three Boeing 777s from Malaysia, but the plan collapsed after Mugabe was ousted in a military coup in November 2017. Air Zimbabwe, which is wholly owned by the government, then took delivery of the aircraft.
The government of President Emmerson Mnangagwa is struggling to find partners for Air Zimbabwe, which must clear its international debts before it is allowed to reprise its former routes to China and the United Kingdom.