October 5, 2008

Air Zimbabwe Resumes Flights After Pilots End Strike Over Allowances

Text of report by London-based opposition newzimbabwe.com website on 4 October

[Report by Lebo Nkatazo: "Air Zimbabwe Resumes Flights After Pilots End Strike"]

Air Zimbabwe planes were back in the air late Friday after pilots ended their strike action over allowances and general working conditions.

The airline was caught off guard when all its pilots called in sick on Friday morning, and therefore unfit to fly as per aviation practice.

The airline immediately issued a statement saying it was suspending all flights on Friday and Saturday.

After marathon talks with the pilots' representatives, Air Zimbabwe management agreed to form a committee to look into the pilots' demands for a review of 'over border allowances' and general working conditions, sources said.

Passengers booked on an Air Zimbabwe flight from Bulawayo to Victoria Falls were put on a bus on Friday while passengers bound for Johannesburg from Harare were put on South African Airways and Comair flights.

The state-owned airline's Singapore flight took off late from Harare and the Harare-Johannesburg and Bulawayo-Johannesburg routes were also reopened late Friday.

An Air Zimbabwe spokesman said flights to Lusaka and Nairobi had also been restored.

There was no danger of the national carrier's Sunday morning flight to London being affected, according to Air Zimbabwe's Manager for Europe David Mwenga.

"We expect the flight to arrive on time on Sunday evening, and it will immediately turn back for the scheduled return flight," said Mwenga.

The pilots wanted a review of their 'over border allowances' to match those of their counterparts at regional airlines, according to sources.

Air Zimbabwe was forced to pay the pilots their allowances in foreign currency after losing key staff to regional competitors. The airline got special dispensation to take the measure from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, although the pilots are still paid their salaries in local currency.

The over border allowances range from US$3,500 to US$7000 per month depending on a pilot's length of service, rank and experience. They are paid to pilots to cover their expenses when flying to destinations outside their cities of residence.

Originally published by newzimbabwe.com website, London, in English 0000 4 Oct 08.

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