Last month, Emirates announced that from 1 February 2012 they will start flying into Harare from Dubai via Zambia 5 times a week. EK713 will depart from Dubai every Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday at 09:25am and arrive in Harare at 5:20pm with the return flight leaving Harare at 7:20pm. This is the first major airline after the withdrawal of services from other foreign airlines that will take to the Zimbabwean skies. This news will come as a welcome relief for the travelling public with the increase in choice they will bring.
In years gone by, there have been reports of the government refusing to approve requests from various foreign carriers to service the nation. Some of these airlines once flew to Zimbabwe but for one reason or another, the powers that be did not accommodate their requests. With the entry of Emirates into the market, some questions come to mind.
The first that comes to mind being, could this mean that the government may be a bit more receptive to other carriers looking to enter or re-enter Zimbabwe? Having airlines such British Airways (long-haul direct from London), Qantas, Lufthansa, Air France and KLM just to name a few flying to Zimbabwe again offering choice and bringing in much needed tourist dollars. The Tourists dollars will hopefully go towards rebuilding Zimbabwe.
A second question that comes to mind is what it will mean for Air Zimbabwe and how the national airline will react? Over the past few months and even extending into years, Air Zimbabwe has been facing crisis after crisis such as debts running into the hundreds of millions as well as strike action by pilots and cabin crew. All of this as well as an aging fleet have impeded its service delivery and may be a cause for concern.
Emirates is a well oiled machine and has been rated as one of the top ten airlines in the world (Skytrax). They fly a modern fleet of over 100 aircraft (with many more on order) to just about every part of the world at very competitive prices. Consumers may be more inclined to choose Emirates over Air Zimbabwe, which could spell even more trouble for them. But, this development may inadvertently force Air Zimbabwe to implement chances that get it on track to being a formidable competitor.