I’m Speechless: Zimbabwe Acquires Two 777s

Last September I wrote about how Zimbabwe wanted to lease four Boeing 777 aircraft. The country’s state owned airline, Air Zimbabwe, is in serious debt (somewhere to the tune of 300 million USD), and there was just one, tiny little detail standing in the way of the airline (and country) getting those 777s. Specifically, they couldn’t afford them. As the transport minister said at the time:

“We don’t have money to buy new planes. If we had money, we would have bought already.”

I feel you, Zimbabwe. Same.

Somehow — and this is truly beyond me — Zimbabwe did in fact take delivery of their first two Boeing 777s this week.

Reuters reports that so far Zimbabwe has bought two Boeing 777 aircraft (which were from Malaysia Airlines). The finance minister claims that these new planes will be leased to a new local airline, until the national airline returns to profitability.

Wait, so they’re going to lease the 777s to a new start-up airline, when the government owned airline is in debt? I also love how they say “until” the national airline returns to profitability, as if that’s ever going to happen. It’s clear that they’re just trying to start over here and let the old airline die.

Apparently the deal for four Boeing 777s cost a total of 70 million USD, but so far only two have been paid for, so we’ll see if/when the country gets the other two planes.

So while Air Zimbabwe continues to be in financial ruin, the new 777s will go to Zimbabwe Airways, which has undisclosed owners. The planes with remain in the government’s ownership since this is only a lease, and the airline will have to come up with a credible business plan.

Interestingly the government says that the new airline has no links to former president Mugabe and his family, yet when the planes arrived on Wednesday, Mugabe’s daughter was there to meet her plane, and her husband was one of the pilots.

I mean… I… yeah… I don’t know.

If you have a government owned airline that’s in serious debt and you want to start a new airline, is the 777 really the right plane for the job?

Let me just say that I can’t wait to see what routes they decide to launch, and I’d like to be first in line to review their onboard product! Media reports suggest that the airline could launch operations by July, with London, Beijing, and Johannesburg being among the first destinations for the airline. Watch out, Emirates, there’s a new kid on the block!

Comments

  1. “The government says the new airline has no links to former president Robert Mugabe and his family.”

    “One of the planes arrived on Wednesday. Mugabe’s daughter Bona was there to meet the plane, and her husband Simba Chikore, was one of the pilots who helped to fly it from Malaysia.”

    You could not make this stuff up.

  2. Fun fact. Zimbabwe used to have nonstop Qantas service from Perth.

    That their national airline is so broke that they’re having to play loose to get two second hand 777s, is a really good snapshot into how Mugabe’s rule has destroyed the country.

  3. Lucky are you also speechless partially because now you have to fly them and try their F product

  4. @Lucky – The country should just follow in the footsteps of the US and wipe clean the debt associated with the airline, as the US did with the banking and automotive sectors. Then the airline can start with a new sheet.

  5. “I feel you, Zimbabwe. Same.”

    Comments like this and your GIFs are why your blog is the best.

  6. Cargo is an important market for Africa. Distances are far and you need range. Low captial cost and highly capable planes like used mh 777s actually seem like a prudent decision here. Utilization need not be high. In the used market, popular narrowbodies A320 series / 737NGs have a strong buyer base (AA and UA actively looking to add). Used 767s are bid up by Amazon. A330s might not be cheaper.

    Sure the pilot hiring decisions are questionable. But the plane decision isn’t as crazy as you make it out to be.

  7. @Lucky
    Happy for you to see a new adventure unfolding before your eyes..let us hope that this new airline can deliver a positive product..
    EK beware??..very far fetched don’t you think or you are just pulling our legs!?

  8. Zoobabwe. They need two 777s because now they have two presidents for life. Anyone who has taken the time to read a brief history of Zimbabwe (formerly Rhodesia) will see just how destructive Mugabe was to a once productive country. A complete and utter disaster still ruled by a tight clique of kleptocrats. A real tragedy. South Africa is next.

  9. When you see big deals like these in Zim, smell a rat. Initial cost for 4 boeing777 was $70 mil, but rose to $180mil! That’s when red flags popped up. These planes are most probably junk (only one delivered and the rest under going “extensive” repairs. Bought secretly by a dodgy private company whose file is missing at company’s registration offices. The positive is direct flights to London, more cargo space for farmers and industry, cheaper intercontinental tickets. But as I said, this is zim, nothing much will come out of this. Don’t get yo hopes high yet.

  10. @ Tomas

    Air Zimbabwe does not go anymore to Heathrow. They were “demoted” to Gatwick decades ago and there seems to be no more direct link, It is now Comair and BA via JNB under BA numbers.
    According to the latest OAG, they do not fly much internationally anymore. JNB once a day with a 767 (this is an airline which, only 10 years ago, had 2 dailies to JNB with 737s, and a smattering to Capetown and Durban… That made sense, SA uses A319/320s) ), Tanzania and possibly Mozambique, Zambia and Malawi.

    777s to JNB are not viable. The fact that BA is “considering” returning to Harare would make for traffic rights, maybe even LHR in the negotiation, but who will pay?

    The Zimbabwean 777s, if true, are the ultimate white elephant. Why did they stop there and not consider A380s from Singapore? the Harare runway and taxiways might have to be reinforced but what the hell ? When there are no more milestones there are no limits to delirium either.

    My routes guess would be Beijing or Shanghai… the route has existed in the past but maybe even the Chinese have given up on Zimbabwe.

    @ Lucky:

    Can’t wait for your review. Do not let those grouches put you down.

    @ James:

    What exactly does “Helped fly the plane” mean ? 🙂

  11. If you look at the YouTube video, starting at about 1:00, you can see the front gear. The doors to the gear show “RGM.” That’s “Robert Gabriel Mugabe.”

    When he was kicked out of the presidency, the agreement was that his business interests (looted from his country) would be left alone, so it seems this “new” airline has his talons in it. I wonder when Gracie will take her first 777 trip to London to go shopping.

    Truly horrible people.

  12. Lucky did have the dubious “pleasure” of flying First Class on Singapore Airlines with none other than “Gucci Grace” Mugabe several years back. What a circus the Mugabe’s have been, a virtual manual in “how to succeed in ruining a country and being a kleptocrat/tinpot dictator in a once promising country.

  13. Air Zimbabwe had a commercial agreement with Qantas during the late 80’s early 90’s. Qantas flew twice weekly SYD/PER/HRE. QF now has 6 x 747 a week SYD/JNB and from mid December will operate 4 x 332 a week PER/JNB.
    Air Zim is a basket case and the flights that do operate are late or cancelled. As for the new airline, Good Luck! operating 777″s to China, this route would lose big money. The only commercially viable routes would be HRE/LGW and HRE/JNB both would have reasonable pax and cargo loads. There is currently an air service agreement between the UK and Zimbabwe so they could commence ops to Gatwick very quickly.
    Next airline to watch in Africa is SAA which is on the bones of its backside and rumours are that there will be more long-haul route cancellations.

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