IT was pomp and fanfare at the Victoria Falls International Airport yesterday when Ethiopian Airlines made a maiden landing at the giant facility.
To welcome the new baby at the new look airport were Minister of Transport and Infrastructural Development Dr Joram Gumbo, Zimbabwe Ambassador to Ethiopia Alfred Chimbindi, Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe Board Chair Advocate Thembinkosi Magwaliba, Victoria Falls Mayor Sifiso Mpofu, CAAZ chief executive officer Mr David Chaota,
Ethiopian Airlines managing director Mr Esays Woldemariam Hailu.
The occasion started with a water canon salute followed by cutting of ribbon by Minister Gumbo and Mr Hailu leading the other crew soon after the B737-800 landed at 12.30.
An elated Minister Gumbo said the coming in of Ethiopian Airlines demonstrates growing confidence in the country’s aviation sector.
He said the development comes at a time when the country is working hard to lure more airlines, while Ethiopian Airlines has remained an all weather friend.
“This provides a boom to our tourism as it establishes vital links between the majestic Victoria Falls and the tourism source markets
This is a beautiful day as Ethiopian Airlines is coming at a time when we last year commissioned this beautiful airport. We can’t let it be idle hence we are busy looking for airlines. We are very excited especially after their commitment to bring bigger planes and that they are doing a lot of marketing for Victoria Falls across the world,” said Minister Gumbo.
He said the country was elated that more airlines have shown interest in flying into Zimbabwe, with Kenyan Airways and RwandAir set to make their maiden flights next month.
Ethiopian Airlines, which will fly four times a week between Addis Ababa-Victoria Falls-Gaborone-Addis Ababa on Sundays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, comes barely a month after South African Airways launched a 222-seater airbus to Victoria Falls.
The Minister said besides boosting tourism, the coming in of more flights has a social impact to the country due to job creation. “This is a momentous occasion for the country as we welcome one of the leading airlines together with SA Airways and BA Comair which are flying into Victoria Falls. This brings confidence to the country and tourism industry.
He challenged African airlines to venture into partnerships.
Speaking at the same occasion, Mr Magwaliba said Victoria Falls was fast taking its position as Africa’s hub for tourism.
“As CAAZ we take pride in this success as Ethiopian Airlines comes to offer direct services four times a week. This comes as a result of recent upgrading of Victoria Falls International Airport which is changing the aviation game in Africa as it becomes the gateway and regional hub,” he said.
Ethiopian Airlines managing director Mr Hailu said the airliner was committed to servicing Zimbabwe as evidenced by the fact that it flew into Zimbabwe when all other airlines had abandoned the destination due to a myriad of challenges.