Yesterday an Air Zimbabwe unique Boeing 777-200 flew from Harare, Zimbabwe to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; after 3 months in maintenance on the ground. This Boeing 777 was delivered to Zimbabwe Airways in May 2018 but since then it had been stored in Kuala Lumpur, Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah Airport, Malaysia until January 2020.
According to Air Zimbabwe, the aircraft flew to Ethiopia for mandatory periodic maintenance; which could not be carried out in Harare, due to the lack of availability of special maintenance equipment.
This maintenance action is critical to ensure that the aircraft remains serviceable, with this concluding an ongoing lease agreement in the next coming few months “as we continue to monitor the effects and milestones in curbing the COVID-19 pandemic”.
In declarations to ZimLive.com a senior Air Zimbabwe executive explained the deal to lease the aircraft:
“The plane is going to Addis Ababa for positioning and possible leasing out. We have been in negotiations with a few airlines who have shown interest, and Ethiopian are leading that pack. They have agreed to take possession of the aircraft for now, and will maintain it, while the talks continue,”
The 15.5-year-old Boeing 777-2000, with registration Z-RGM (Robert Gabriel Mugabe), was delivered to Malaysia Airlines on Nov 2004. She has been parked since 2015 after Malaysia Airlines decided to retire their entire B777 fleet, following the disappearance of MH370 in 2014 and the MH17 missile shooting over Ukraine.
On April 2018 she was delivered to Zimbabwe Airways but in May of the same year was stored in Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah Airport, Malaysia until January 2020.
On the statement of Air Zimbabwe, the airline also revealed that the lease of the 777 is part of the National Airline’s Strategic Turnaround Plan (STP) in which the main focus is the creation of a robust regional and international network.
Air Zimbabwe suspended all flights on March 26th, in line with directives on travel restrictions issued by the Zimbabwe government to curb the spread of the COVID-19.
“We fully appreciate that return to normalcy will not be instant but certainly a gradual process. Our strategy shall revolve around the deployment of narrow-bodied equipment on traditional as well as additional routes. We also intend to develop a hub and spoke network with an emphasis of two hubs Harare and Victoria Falls,”said FirstmeVitori, Air Zimbabwe Spokesperson to ZBCnews
According to ZBCnews, there are plans to create additional regional routes like Lusaka, Kinshasa and Lubumbashi. Also as part of the strategy, the airline intends to make use of the Victoria Falls as a tourism hub; linking key domestic destinations such as Matopos, Kariba and Buffalo Range to cities such as Cape Town, Maun and Windhoek.
The airline is also optimistic for the re-launching of international flights to London and Beijing in the short to medium term. These routes were suspended in 2011.
Right now, Air Zimbabwe flies just a single plane, a Boeing 767-200 ( Z-WPE ), on domestic and regional flights to Dar es Salaam and Johannesburg. Sam Chui has flown both Air Zimbabwe B737 and B767 in a video here.