CASH-STRAPPED Air Zimbabwe has reportedly re-branded to Zimbabwe Airways after concluding a long-term lease deal, which will result in the delivery of four modern Boeing 777-200 planes from Malaysia Airlines, NewsDay has learned.
Pictures of the rebranded Zimbabwe Airways planes went viral on social media platforms yesterday.
The deal, according to sources at Air Zimbabwe, was signed by newly-appointed chief operating officer, Simba Chikore, as part of a fresh drive to beef up the national carrier’s fleet and increase its routes.
The national airline had reduced to domestic routes using the much-maligned Chinese made MA-60, an ageing 767-200 and refurbished Airbus A320.
“The project is being spearheaded by chief operating officer Chikore as the company forges ahead with restructuring. The planes, Boeing 777-200ER, are 12 years old Malaysian Airlines ex-fleet and four of them are expected soon,” the insider said.
Transport minister Joram Gumbo has in the past few weeks travelled to the Far East to negotiate and seal the deal.
Gumbo yesterday said he was out of Harare and had not yet been briefed on the development.
“I am outside of Harare at the moment. The board has not yet briefed me on that, check with the board,” he said.
AirZim board chairperson Chipo Dyanda was not reachable on her mobile phones and had not responded to text messages sent to her phone.
Gumbo has, in the past, urged the State to take over the airline’s $300 million debt to give it a clean start possibly under a new name.
The airline has over the past few years retrenched over 400 workers, but there were reports that it was still top-heavy and further cuts were imminent.
In the past four months, the airline had to rely on chartered planes to fly President Robert Mugabe on his international trips and routine medical check-ups in the Far East.
The European Union last month banned Air Zimbabwe from flying into the bloc, saying that their obsolete planes were now a security risk.