TOURISM minister Prisca Mupfumira recently approached British Airways (BA) regarding the possibility of direct flights between London and Harare but was turned down by the UK flag carrier, it has emerged.
According to Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) chief executive Karikoga Kaseke, BA was concerned that the route does not, presently, have enough business class potential to complement the undoubted economy class possibilities.
Although actual numbers remain unclear, there is a significant Zimbabwean diaspora in the UK and many regularly travel back home to visit with their families.
However, it would appear that BA reckons much of that traffic is largely economy class and, therefore, not commercially viable.
ZTA boss Kaseke confirmed the BA approach at the recent Zimndaba investment conference which was held in London when he was asked about direct flights between the two countries.
“Last time when my minister was here, she had a meeting with British Airways,” he said.
“BA are saying that, from their perspective and when they look at their projections, they see a lot of potential for economy class travellers but when they look at business class possibilities and try to balance with their business model they are seeing the balance not working out.
“They (BA) say they are more interested in the business class travellers. As you know, KLM introduced flights some few years back and within nine months they pulled out for the same reasons.”
He continued; “In terms of fuel, when airlines are flying they fly for business; they want to get money, it’s not for charity.
“When the profitability of a route is looked at from a yield point of view – the mixture of business and economy class passengers – it must show a positive sign and BA are saying at the moment, they don’t see the positive from the business class travellers.”
Kaseke said they are however continuing to engage BA and convince them that business class travel will follow the establishment of direct connections.