Air Zimbabwe suspends all flights indefinitely: report

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — Air Zimbabwe has suspended all of its flights indefinitely, the latest blow to the country's problem-plagued national airline

"I can confirm all flights are suspended. We are grounded indefinitely," Air Zimbabwe chief executive Innocent Mavhunga told Agence France-Presse today.

The state-run carrier had been planning to resume flights this week after pilots walked off the job last year over unpaid wages. But the pilots did not show up to work, Mavhunga told AFP.

"Pilots did not come to commence operations. We are waiting for the government which is our major shareholder to intervene. Our issue is in the domain of cabinet. We are just waiting for their intervention,"  he said.

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The carrier has been on the verge of collapse in recent years, facing problems including frequent strikes by pilots and mounting debts.

In December, an Air Zimbabwe plane was impounded at London's Gatwick Airport until a debt of $1.2 million was paid. A week later, the airline suspended flights to neighboring South Africa to avoid having its planes seized over unpaid debts. The state-owned air carrier reportedly owed $500,000 to a local supplier.

GlobalPost's deputy managing editor Andrew Meldrum, who lived in Zimbabwe for more than two decades, explained that Air Zimbabwe was once a well-run and profitable airline with good flights in Zimbabwe, to South Africa and other southern African destinations, as well as flights to Europe and Asia.

"In recent years airline has been dogged by allegations of corruption and mismanagement and reports of large losses," Meldrum said. "President Robert Mugabe uses the Air Zimbabwe jets for his numerous overseas trips, often disrupting scheduled flights so that planes can take him to Rome, New York or Hong Kong."

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