AIRLINES and a vibrant aviation industry are generally a catalyst to economic growth for nations. The launch of the Bulawayo-Johannesburg flights by reputable airlines, SA Express and Fastjet Zimbabwe within a month, speaks volumes about the business potential of the city. There is a need to look at this from a broader perspective, said Mr Passmore Dewa, the general manager for Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo International Airport. Increased flights do not only render convenience for travellers but there are wider benefits that can accrue to the entire economy of Bulawayo and its people economically and socially.
“There is employment creation along the entire value chain from the airport as a micro-economy, hotels, metropolitan service providers to the airlines,” said Mr Dewa.
“The introduction of one airline route has the potential of creating plus or minus 1 000 jobs in the whole service value chain. In our case we are privileged to have received two new airlines starting to ply the Joburg-Byo route within one month in a space of two days.
“Tribute goes to the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructural Development and the Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe (CAAZ) who granted the routes resulting in opening up the Bulawayo-Joburg air service in line with the mantra ‘Zimbabwe is open for business.’”
Mr Dewa said Zimbabwe was implementing fully the Yamoussoukro Decision, a treaty that allowed for open skies among most African countries. The treaty was endorsed by 44 members of the African Union in 1999, and became binding in 2002. It grants fifth freedom transit rights between all of its signatories.
“So, it is the airport, the city economy and the people of Bulawayo and the region and ultimately the country that are the biggest beneficiaries,” said Mr Dewa. “Fastjet will be flying twice daily except on Saturdays. SA Express will be operating one flight daily except Wednesdays with a second frequency on Fridays. We now have an average of 350 seats a day on the Byo-Joburg route up from 150 seats, which is a commendable increase and an early Christmas present for the people of Bulawayo and its environs.”
Mr Dewa said individual travellers and business executives now have a choice on which airline to use, which he hoped will result in competitive air fares on the route with an average of five flights per day. “The airport capacity utilisation will increase from the current 11 percent to about 25 percent,” he added. “So it’s not just Zimra that will realise some additional revenue but the entire value chain, that is, immigration, CAAZ, National Handling Services, fuel suppliers, ground transportation such as car rental companies, taxis, shuttles, parking, retail, food and beverages outlets, hotels, lodges, retail shops, service providers and most businesses in the city.”
Government through the Ministry of Transport approved routes and frequencies for Fastjet as follows – three times daily between Johannesburg-Bulawayo and three times daily between Bulawayo-Harare as at August 2019. At the moment Airlink of South Africa operates twice daily Monday to Friday and once on Saturdays and Sundays between Bulawayo-Johannesburg.