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Falls on the up and up…

Posted 8 August 2017 · Add Comment

The upgraded Victoria Falls International Airport in Zimbabwe has started attracting major airlines flying the latest wide-body aircraft. Humphrey Nkonde reports.

In 2013, President Robert Mugabe’s government obtained a $150 million loan from the Export-Import Bank to the upgrade Victoria Falls International Airport.
The work includes a new international terminal building with a capacity to handle 1.5 million passengers a year.
The old terminal, with capacity of 500,000 passengers, now services domestic flights.
Large aircraft, such as the Boeing 747 and Airbus 340, are able to land at the airport, as the upgraded runway is now 4,000 metres long and 60 metres wide.
Air traffic control and meteorological services are being offered from the airport’s new control tower, while a new fire station is equipped with E-One fire (foam) tenders.
The airport has CCTV coverage, instrument landing and airfield ground lighting systems, automated baggage handling, as well refuelling facilities for Avgas and Jet1 fuel.
Banks, restaurants, duty free shops, and offices for immigration and customs have also been incorporated into the airport.
Victoria Falls International Airport was mainly constructed to serve tourists from all over the world going to view the Victoria Falls, one of the seven natural wonders of the world. Since the upgrade, it has attracted major airlines.
Ethiopian Airlines, Africa’s largest airline, started direct flights to Victoria Falls from Addis Abba’s Bole International Airport using the latest B737-800 New Generation aircraft on March 26.
Zimbabwe’s Minister of Infrastructure and Transport, Joram Gumbo, and Esayas Woldemariam Hailu, Ethiopian Airlines’ managing director for international services, gave speeches after the first B737-800 landed.
Dr Gumbo said the inaugural flight by Ethiopian Airlines showed the confidence it had in Zimbabwe’s aviation industry, adding that Africa’s biggest airline had continued servicing the Harare route at a time when other airlines withdrew their flights to Zimbabwe.
He called on African airlines to codeshare their ticketing systems so that Africa improved its stake in the global aviation industry.
Meanwhile, Hailu, who was one of the passengers on the first flight, described the natural phenomenon of Victoria Falls as “the magnet of African tourism”.
Ethiopian Airlines will fly non-stop from Addis Abba at 08.35am to arrive in Victoria Falls Town at 12.15pm on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays. Return journeys on the same days would include stopovers in Gaborone, Botswana’s capital city.
Kenya Airways and South Africa’s Airlink are also planning to start direct flights to Victoria Falls International Airport, according to information released by the Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe (CAAZ).
CAAZ has a task of connecting the airport to several tourist destinations within Africa.
“We are working on connecting Victoria Falls to regional tourist destinations such as Walvis Bay in Namibia and Mombasa in Kenya,” said CAAZ in a statement.
Other international airlines servicing Victoria Falls International are Fastjet Zimbabwe, Air Zimbabwe, South Africa Airways, South Africa’s Airlink, Air Namibia, and British Airways, operated by South Africa’s Comair.
Scheduled flights are being covered by Rainbow Airlines, while non-scheduled to the airport are also being completed by charter operators.

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