Leonard Ncube in Victoria Falls
SOUTH Africa Airways (SAA) has replaced its wide bodied aircraft A330-222 with a much bigger 330-300 on its Johannesburg-Victoria Falls route due to demand.
The move comes soon after Ethiopian Airlines also increased frequency from three to four days per week on its route between Addis Ababa-Victoria Falls-Gaborone-Addis Ababa.
The year 2018 has been a remarkable year for the tourism industry, which experienced unprecedented growth in arrivals resulting in airlines increasing capacity.
Regarded as one of the leading airlines in Southern Africa, SAA launched its wide-bodied 222-seater airbus flight to Victoria Falls last year following the completion of the $150 million Victoria Falls International Airport upgrade.
It’s has now further increased its capacity by 27 seats from 222 to 249 as more tourists fly into Victoria Falls.
The new look airport facility can now accommodate wide bodied aircraft and has capacity to handle more than 1.5 million passengers annually.
Airport manager, Mr Ronnie Masawi, said this was a sign of positive growth on the destination.
“SAA started using airbus 330-300 on November 29 as it increased capacity by additional seats. This might look like a small figure but it means increased capacity and translates to huge numbers cumulatively,” said Mr Masawi.
“The year 2018 has seen a very significant increase in numbers where new entrance airlines have also consolidated their services.”
Tourism Business Council of Zimbabwe (TBCZ) representative, Mrs Barbara Murasiranwa, said air travel was becoming more popular with travellers due to challenges associated with road transport.
“This means an increase in business while people are growing more confident in air travel to Vic Falls especially as self-drivers face challenges of badly serviced roads and fuel shortages,” said Mrs Murasiranwa.
“The plane is amazingly beautiful and it’s economy class looks like business class if compared to other airlines thereby bringing luxury flights to Victoria Falls.”
SAA, which also flies to Harare and Bulawayo, will be alternating the airbus with a much bigger aircraft where there is high demand.
SAA is a Star Alliance member and operates in over 40 destinations across the globe, with over 14 000 weekly connections through its global partners’ network with OR Tambo International Airport as the main hub.
It carries over six million passengers annually across the network as it competes with world class airlines.
Other airlines flying into Victoria Falls include Air Zimbabwe, Air Namibia, British Airways, Fastjet, Kenyan Airways and SA Airlink.
The Victoria Falls International Airport has been regarded as a game changer in the country’s tourism and aviation as its expanded 4km and 60 metres wide runway can accommodate wide bodied aircraft such as B747, B777, Airbus A340 and A380 among others.