The countdown is on for the renaming of Harare International Airport in Zimbabwe. So in a few weeks time do not be surprised when you are flying into Zimbabwe’s capital city’s main airport and you do not hear the familiar greeting “Welcome to Harare Int’l Airport because that name will soon be no more in a move to re-brand Zimbabwe’s aviation industry by the country’s authorities and in comes R G Mugabe International Airport.
Harare International airport is Zimbabwe’s main airport by passenger and traffic volume even though Victoria Fall International Airport is setting itself up nicely to challenge that mantle in the next few coming years. It is also the base for the nation’s flag carrier Air Zimbabwe and is currently run by CAAZ (Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe). Harare International Airport is the alternative regional hub for connections to other airports after O R Tambo International Airport in South Africa for southern and central Africa. The geographical location of HIA makes it an even better option to O R Tambo International Airport as it is more centrally located, if only proper management was exercised. The airport used to serve an array of airlines from all across the world in its hey days with the likes of Qantas plying a direct non stop flight to Harare from Perth and Lufthansa direct from Germany to name but a few. To top it up the airport once hosted the iconic but now defunct BAC Concorde, the only passenger aircraft that could travel supersonic(speed of sound) and beyond on a special charter flight.
BAC Concorde aircraft.
Despite the difficult operating environment in the country the airport seems to be holding its own with the recent comebacks by some major international and regional airlines as well as new entries. Air Namibia, Air Zimbabwe, British Airways, Emirates, Ethiopian Airways, FastJet, EgyptAir, Ethiopian Air, KLM, Kenya Airways, Rainbow Airlines, LAM Mozambique Airlines, Malawian Airlines, RwandAir, SA Airways, TAAG Angola Airlines are some names you would meet on a daily basis at the airport(more or less). Imagine how it would be like in a free operating environment. These airlines pose significant competition to Air Zimbabwe which is struggling to operate using its old aircraft as well as huge debts. Some of these airlines use some the latest aircraft in the market such as the Airbus A350XWB, Boeing 787 Dreamliner by Ethiopian Air and Boeing B777-300ER by Emirates.Emirates B777-300MR aircraft.
Ethiopian Air Airbus A350XWB flight to Harare.
Hence the need by our local carrier to up its game to meet these high standards. The rumour mill has it that this renaming function will also be used as a launch pad for the soon to be unveiled Zimbabwe Airways (currently Air Zimbabwe) and its recently acquired aircraft from Malaysia and Brazil. These aircraft will at least give the local airline an on par footing to compete. Details of ownership of these aircraft are still sketchy as Air Zimbabwe cannot own them or risk having them impounded for its debt wherever they will fly to.Boeing B777-200MR
Embraer ERJ-145 aircraft.
Now we wait to see how that day will unfold. Anyone with more details can always comment for our benefit. Other than that, us in the aviation industry await with wide eyes open, politics aside but just for the love of aviation.
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AviaConnect (M B Dube)