With the recent changes at the helm of Zimbabwe's government, there is renewed optimism in Zimbabwe. Aviation and tourism have been identified as key pillars to economic growth and one of the airlines that hopes to benefit from the new environment is start-up Emerald Airlines, who will be joining us in Cape Town for AviaDev Africa this June. Ahead of the event, I caught up with the CEO, Mr Munyaradzi Kutama (MK)
JH: Can you explain your personal experience and what led you to start Emerald?
MK: A brief on my background, Initially l was to undertake an Engineering degree in Aerospace Design and Manufacturing at Bristol University,instead of going into my 2nd year, l saw a newspaper advert for pilot training at a flight school in Kent and that was my turning point. I got my Commercial Pilot licence and moved to the US to instruct for a few years before landing a First Officer Position with Air Zimbabwe.
After leaving AirZim l started analysing the industry borrowing from my experience at the national airline and was more keen on reviving the airline initially. When l realised that this was not going to be an easy task, l then mk; shifted to getting a new entity altogether operating out of Zimbabwe. I and my partner/colleague then embarked on a 2-year journey of looking at the statistics and any information we could gather on Air travel movement in Zimbabwe. From this, I realised that Harare was geographically well positioned for a Southern African Hub. Of all the SADC countries, Harare is within 2 hrs of each of the Capital cities.
So the plan began to unfold that we would feed traffic into Harare and then Long Haul them to North America, Europe and the East. Also, the opening of the skies in Zimbabwe helped with making our application process uneventful.
JH: Can you briefly explain where Emerald Airlines is up to currently and your plans and timescales for launch?
MK: Emerald Airlines is at this stage going through the last phase of the AOC process with a plan of completing and having the AOC granted before the end of April. The launch will follow within 30-45 days of having the AOC granted.
JH: What are your fleet plans in the short/medium/long term?
MK: Our Fleet plans for the immediate term are based on possible 50 seater regional jets servicing the domestic and regional routes,. In the Medium to long-term plan is to upgrade to a possible 100-120 seat (with a range that can give us Harare - Lagos) and the Long Haul Aircraft of either the A330 or the B787. The Fleet number initially is projected at 2 short haul and 2 long-haul aircraft, with a heavy emphasis on modern equipment.
JH: In terms of funding, how is the operation to be financed?
MK: Emerald Airlines is wholly Zimbabwean owned and funded for now, though we are on the market looking at strategic partnerships that we can either partner with or they can invest in us.
JH: How about the routes you would like to operate. Where do you see most scope?
Our initial route structure will cover the domestic routes out of R G Mugabe International to Bulawayo and Victoria Falls, in the Region, Johannesburg, Cape Town, Lagos, Lusaka, Lilongwe and International, United Kingdom and China. Most scope for us will be servicing the Harare - UK and Harare - China routes.
Aviation Development conference will take place from 12 to 14 June in Cape Town, South Africa.