Saturday, April 13, 2013

■ ZIMBABWE: Construction of new airside infrastructure at Victoria Falls Airport goes ahead as Bulawayo's nears completion.

Zimbabwe GovernmentWork on the upgrading of airside infrastructure at Victoria Falls International Airport in Zimbabwe has finally gotten under way following a ground-breaking ceremony held in the resort town on Friday, attended by Zimbabwean government dignitaries. The contractor for the USD150million project, to be financed under a China ExIm Bank loan, has been identified as China Jiangsu International Group (CJIG).

Victoria Falls Airport overview (BMalais)
The two-year project is aimed at raising the airport's passenger handling capacity from 500,000 to 1.5 million annually and will usher in the start of long-haul international flights with KLM (KL), Emirates (EK) and even Lufthansa (LH) having expressed interest in serving the town. Enlargements will include a second runway of length 4'000m with current runway, 12/30, to act as a taxiway, a 100'000 sqm apron, a 20'000sqm terminal, and a new car park.

Meanwhile, Zimbabwe's second city, Bulawayo's Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo International Airport, is due to finally open following USD30million in upgrades that have lasted over 10 years. The airport has seen runway upgrades as well as various improvements to the terminal though government has gone on record as saying an added USD5.4 million is needed to complete the upgrade.
"The airport is ready for operation. The airport is 99 percent complete and we have said to the Ministry of Transport, Communication and Infrastructural Development can we use it for the trade fair. Technically we are ready to use it for the trade fair,"  JM Nkomo International Airport manager, Mr Passmore Dewa, said during a stakeholders' meeting organised by the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA).
Source [Bulawayo24]

However, the closure of several businesses and industries in Bulawayo over the past few years has hit operations at the airport hard, and coupled with the low number of tourists visiting the country in the past few years, some in the local press have questioned the need for the project, given that only two airlines (Air Zimbabwe (UM) and SA Airlink (4X)) currently service the airport.

The Zimbabwean government has "castigated local airlines granted AOCs for failing to meet their end of the bargain after being giving the nod to commence operations." Operators themselves claim that routes given the airlines to fly, e.g Victoria Falls to Buffalo Range, are not financially viable given the high costs of maintaining and operating flights in the country. More lucrative routes like Harare - Johannesburg, Harare - Bulawayo and Harare - Victoria Falls flights are generally reserved for Air Zimbabwe.