Arguably the continent’s best tourist destination, Zimbabwe has once again had its national carrier banned from flying into Europe’s air space, after its name appeared on the EU Air Safety List (ASL), “a list of air carriers that do not fulfil international safety standards.”
“The ASL, while not popular with the affected countries and carriers, has developed into a strong and internationally recognised tool that helps improve the safety of international aviation. This is the case both for flights to the EU, but also for aviation outside of the EU. The ASL is also seen as a strong preventive tool, because when under scrutiny, countries tend to improve their safety oversight to avoid seeing their air carriers on the list,” according to European Commission.
What is worrying is that this latest incident comes on the back of the resurgence of the country’s tourism industry, as is happening across most African countries. Tourism has suffered from the lockdowns, and the Zimbabwean one doesn’t need the kind of experience currently being seen.
The southern African country needs to constantly improve its various tourism products, from a fully-functioning national and private aviation industry players, hospitality industry, arts and culture sector, among others.
Therefore, it must not be forgotten that Zimbabwe servicing European routes comes with the immense benefit of access to a major source market. A market with significant power to single-handedly sustain the country’s tourism sector.
Meeting international aviation safety standards is a key source of pride and promoter of a brand name for any airline player. Similarly, not meeting international safety standards brings unnecessary negative attention to the airline.
In this case, there is too much negativity that emerges from getting blacklisted for an important source market such as Europe.
Air Zimbabwe was once a robust and internationally renowned back in the 80s, so the current failure of the carrier to comply with international safety standards has the potential to dent the image of the country’s aviation and tourism industry. Already, there is negative public feedback, especially via social media.
What is needed is for the Zimbabwean Ministry of Transport to quickly act to avert the future impact of the ban. Hopefully, the return of the national career will be sooner rather than later, to allow convenient travel between Zimbabwe and Europe.
Zimbabwe needs all the channels that drive and can boost its tourism industry, which currently is showing signs of improvement as the world begins to travel again and the country seeks a return to earning a reported over $2 billion in revenue.
The southern African country has some of the African continent’s most attractive tourist attractions, with Victoria Falls a signature tourism feature, therefore the country’s aviation industry must not only match that status but rather be globally competitive.
The good news is that the country’s aviation industry is consistently attracting increasing numbers of global airlines, as recently evidenced by the arrival of Euro Wings at the Victoria Falls International Airport. This must be complemented by Air Zimbabwe being a robust national carrier.
Uninterrupted and long-term access to the European source market should be a priority area, as it concerns the need to comply with all the requirements. In the future, this kind of situation can be avoided through Air Zimbabwe having a heads-up mentality, working with aviation technical consultants to check the aircraft before the European Union come in to do their assessments. These consultants would have to be highly familiar with the European Union safety standards and regulations.
The above may come at a huge cost, but it will be much worth it and has future benefits through sustained revenue generation for the country. The internal technical checkups on the aircraft would translate to meeting the stringent safety standards. Management of the airline would then be left to focus on servicing and consolidating its European (and other) routes.
Established to uphold high safety levels within the European region, the European Union Safety List influences enlisted countries to develop their levels of safety to entering European air space.
While Air Zimbabwe has not experienced a major air incident historically, there is a need to further maintain this enviable and outstanding image by regularly considering ways that improve its safety and the safety of passengers. Therefore, meeting the standards as regulated under ICAO.