The government has granted low-cost airline FlyAfrica permission to fly the lucrative Harare-Bulawayo route when it resumes operating within 90 days, ending the monopoly that was enjoyed by struggling national carrier, Air Zimbabwe.
FlyAfrica was forced to suspend operations last month to sort out its licence and aircraft ownership status and this has to be done within 90 days.
According to a letter from Transport and Infrastructure Development permanent secretary George Mlilo, FlyAfrica joins Air Zimbabwe in plying the local route which has for long been a preserve of the struggling national airline.
“The ministry acknowledges receipt of your letter wherein you sought designation of the Harare-Bulawayo route, the ministry has approved your request on a daily frequency on route,” read the letter from Mlilo to Cassidy Mugwagwa, FlyAfrica executive chairman.
For years, the Harare-Bulawayo route has been a cash cow for Air Zimbabwe but the State-owned airline, due to dilapidated infrastructure and viability challenges, has been struggling to meet market demands.
Last month, the Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe (CAAZ) suspended FlyAfrica’s licence due to its status and how it had leased aircraft. The airline had a wet lease arrangement and the authority wanted FlyAfrica to have a dry lease arrangement which is cheaper.
A wet lease is an arrangement whereby one airline (the lessor) provides an aircraft, crew, maintenance and insurance to another airline or other type of business acting as a broker of air travel (the lessee) and paid by hours operated.
A dry lease is an arrangement whereby an aircraft financing entity provides an aircraft without crew and ground staff among others.
Last month, CAAZ also approved Gift Chigorimbo as the accountable manager for the airline — a process that leads to its recertification and possible return.