Air Zim leases plane to Ethiopian Airlines?

AIR ZIMBABWE ‘s latest acquisition,the B777-200ER aircraft flew out of the country on Tuesday amid reports that the national airliner has leased it to Ethiopian Airlines, Zim Morning Post can report.

Aviation experts say it is a way of creating a revenue stream at a time the state enterprise declared zero cash inflow due to COVID-19 induced suspension of major flights.

Upon taking delivery of the aircraft, in January, Air Zimbabwe mooted dry leasing the plane as part of their turn around strategy to revive waning fortunes.

However, in a statement Airzm Public relations executive Firstme Vitori could neither confirm no deny that the flag carrier has been leased.

The National Airline today at 1138hrs positioned its B777-200ER Reg# Z-RGM to Addis Ababa Bole International Airport, Ethiopia, for special mandatory periodic maintenance which could not be carried out in Harare owing to the unavailability of special maintenance equipment,” Vitori said.

The maintenance tasks are key in ensuring that the aircraft remains serviceable in line with the ongoing process of dry leasing the aircraft.

“Discussions and negotiations are at an advanced stage with potential short-listed lessees and a final position will be officially communicated once an agreement has been signed hopefully in the next coming few months as we continue to monitor the effects and milestones in curbing the Covid-19 pandemic.

She added: “Activation of a lease agreement will bring in the much needed foreign currency revenue for Air Zimbabwe to augment its current aircraft fleet with an option of outright purchases or lease in of smaller aircrafts.”

As earlier reported by this publication in January, experts say dry leasing is an arrangement whereby an aircraft financing entity (lessor), provides an aircraft without supporting staff.

The manner in which the plane left the country is tantamount to dry leasing ,since the cockpit was manned by two Ethiopian Airways pilots with no supporting local staff.

“The plane departed for Ethiopia and two Ethiopian pilots were in charge.

“We were not yet briefed on the actual arrangements by management but there were plans to lease it since the day it came from Malaysia,” said our inside source who spoke on condition of anonymity in fear of reprisal from management.

When the plane landed on our shores, the national airliner said it’s immediate focus is to create a strong domestic and regional feeder network.

Transport minister Joel Biggie Matiza is on record stating that his office will continue to push for successful implementation of the turn around strategies at the national airline.

Vitori told Zim Morning Post that the move to lease the 15-year-old Malaysian acquired bird, is in accordance with the flag carrier’s StrategicTurnaround Plan.