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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Air Zimbabwe to slash workforce

Our 737 fleet is 23 years old and has outlived its economic life span

Zimbabwe’s flag carrier will cut 500 jobs, representing one-third of its workforce, to mitigate financial losses incurred over the past years, the airline’s boss said on Tuesday.

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    "We have no option other but to right-size or else we are dead," Air Zimbabwe chief executive Peter Chikumba told AFP.

    Nearly a decade of economic and political crisis has seen annual passenger numbers for the embattled airline drop from a peak of million in 1996 to just 300,000 now, the company said.

    The company currently has a 30 million US dollar debt, and has asked the government to sell its stake in the airline in a bid to raise desperately needed cash from private investors.

    "If we do not do anything about it, the business will collapse.

    The situation we are in today as an airline and as a country is not best for business," Chikumba told AFP.

    The company, with 1,500 employees, has already cut its flights to Dubai, Kinshasa and Luanda, while concentrating on busy routes to South Africa, Britain and Zambia.

    Chikumba also expressed concern about the airline’s aging fleet.

    "Our 737 fleet is 23 years old and has outlived its economic life span," he said.

    "The standard economic life span of an aircraft is about 15 years. Maintenance costs are high, spares for these aeroplanes are scarce," Chikumba added.

    The company’s newer planes are three Boeing 737s, two 767s and three Chinese MA60 which were purchased in 2005.

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