Zimbabwe officially opened its airports to international flights yesterday with five airlines resuming services into the country and the Zimbabwean authorities ready to enforce the new testing and public health requirements.

Low cost airline fastjet landed at Victoria Falls International Airport on its Harare-Victoria Falls route.

Ethiopian Airlines, Emirates, Kenyan Airways and RwandAir were expected to start flying into Harare from yesterday.

In a statement, Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe (CAAZ) acting general manager Bertha Muzangaza said a number of airlines were expected in the next few weeks.

“Today Zimbabwe reopens its airports for international scheduled flights for the first time since March 2020. Three airlines are scheduled to resume international flights,” said Muzangaza.

Fastjet plans to resume its Harare to Johannesburg route; Ethiopian Airlines starting its Addis Ababa to Harare route; and Emirates beginning the Dubai to Harare route.

Kenya Airways and RwandAir will both resume flights on October 2.

Muzangaza said the authority was happy to welcome back international passengers for scheduled flights into and from local airports.

“In ensuring the safety of passengers and staff, we have introduced new health measures such as mandatory temperature screening and sanitisation before entering the terminal building. Passengers arriving in Zimbabwe must produce a negative PCR result conducted within 48 hours prior to travel. Those showing symptoms of Covid-19 will be tested at the airport as sufficient testing equipment is in place,” she said.

In Victoria Falls, fastjet’s ERJ145 landed just before 1pm with 40 passengers on board and took off with 11 passengers back to Harare.

While some were Victoria Falls residents returning to their families from Harare, others were on the flights to tour the resort town.

Passengers spoken to expressed excitement at the resumption of air flight services.

“I had visited Harare a fortnight ago with my family and decided to fly back today for the convenience of the little children since driving by road is tiring.

“The flight was good despite delays in departing from Harare. Their safety measures are perfect because everyone was sanitised on boarding and masks on and inside they have passengers’ little boxes with masks and sanitisers,” said a passenger who preferred anonymity.

Michael Jones from Harare said he took advantage of the first flight to visit Victoria Falls.

“The flight was fantastic. We are so happy to be flying again after six months and we hope this marks the return of our tourism industry,” he said.

Another passenger also from Harare, Tofara Nyoni, said: “I am visiting for the weekend to see the place and friends. Besides lack of in-flight service and delays, the flight was good. We are excited to be in the skies once again.”

Local operators could not hide the joy their joy too. Taxi and shuttle service providers were already at the airport by 10am as the flight was initially scheduled to land at 11am.

Douglas Mutepa, a driver for LED Transfer Company said they were desperate for the reopening of the industry.

“At least I got a client. This brings hope to us and the whole industry. We are excited by the return of flights because here in Victoria Falls we rely on tourism hence its absence means no life for us.

“For now, there is no business, but we hope with these latest events things will improve,” he said.

Hopes are high in the tourism sector for a boost in domestic and regional arrivals as operators expect resumption of flights to bring clients.

Reopening of borders and airports in South Africa also brought hope as the neighbouring country is key to the local tourism.

“Traffic from South Africa has higher numbers which we definitely need. We hope clients from our source markets will fly through East Africa and we expect better fortunes going forward,” said Hospitality Association of Zimbabwe vice president Farai Chimba.