Zvamaida Murwira-Senior Reporter
Qatar Airways made its inaugural flight into Harare yesterday linking Zimbabwe to a major airline hub and showing its confidence in the Second Republic’s efforts to transform the economy.
Zimbabwe is now connected to the massive hub airport at Doha with all its connections around the world.
The new routes were the airline’s fifth and sixth destinations in Africa since the outbreak of the Covid-19 in December 2019.
Qatar Airways will fly to Harare three times a week from Doha using a Boeing 787 Dreamliner.
Transport and Infrastructural Development Minister Felix Mhona noted that Zimbabwe and Qatar have good relations given that the Middle East country has expressed interest in cooperating in critical sectors for the mutual benefit of the two countries.
“The arrival of Qatar Airways today is a testimony to these relations. Apart from great economic and social ties, the two countries are blessed with diverse tourist attractions.
These attractions are visited by millions of tourists annually and its opportunistic that they are now linked by this air service to bring a perfect combination of dream tourist destinations through this world class global airline,” said Minister Mhona who was represented by Principal Director in the Ministry, Mr Allowance Sango, at a brief ceremony at Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport.
He said the Second Republic led by President Mnangagwa seeks to turn the country into an upper middle class economy by 2030, and air transport will play a critical role in enabling this endeavour as it opens and connects markets, facilitates trade and enables industrial link into global supply chains.
“As Zimbabwe, we believe that increased connectivity between Zimbabwe and other continents such as the Middle East is mutually beneficial. It is therefore paramount that we enhance air connectivity between our two countries. As a sign of the Republic of Zimbabwe’s commitment to the open skies policy, the Government has been granting Fifth Freedom Traffic Rights to non-African states to ensure improved global connectivity. This has been evidenced by Qatar Airways flying into Harare via Lusaka,” he said.
He said the Government was seized with modernising its infrastructure at domestic and international airports to ensure more international airlines to come to Zimbabwe.
Environment, Climate Change, Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister Mangaliso Ndlovu noted that this was one of the effects of the efforts being made by the Government to transform the economy.
The coming in of Qatar Airways, he added, would go a long way in boosting tourism, whose fortunes suffered owing to Covid-19 induced challenges.
Qatar Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Mr Tariq Al-Ansari who recently presented credentials to President Mnangagwa said his country was committed to continue deepening cooperation between the two countries.
He said President Mnangagwa gave him encouraging words to enhance cooperating during a meeting he held with him.
Qatar Airways vice president for Africa Hendrik du Pretz said the Harare-Lusaka route will help the airline build its connectivity to the African region while connecting their passengers to over 140 destinations globally.
“We believe in Africa’s aviation potential and will work to establish long-term partnerships in Harare. After all, connecting people around the world is the nature of our business. And we are thrilled to have Harare as part of the Qatar Airways story, which as many of you know will experience one of its most exciting chapters next year as official partner and official airline of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022,” said Mr Pretz.
Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe chairperson Advocate Theophelus Gambe said his organisation will ensure non-discriminatory, evidence-based, and transparent policies to restore the country’s air services industry to former glory days.
“I wish to encourage all aviation, tourism, other key stakeholders and Zimbabweans at large to continue with the spirit of oneness and unity of purpose so that we collaboratively market Zimbabwe as a complete package,” he said.
Airports Company of Zimbabwe chairperson, Mr Devnada Poptlal, hailed the Government’s support after it approved an ambitious programme to purchase, upgrade and modernise air navigation equipment.
Qatar Airways dispatched a top-of-the-range airbus A350-900, and it landed at Robert Gabriel International Airport midmorning yesterday.