British Airways to end Zimbabwe flights

British Airways announced Thursday that it will halt flights to Zimbabwe next month, citing mounting losses on the route as the southern African nation struggles with its worst economic crisis since independence in 1980.

With Zimbabwe’s international isolation growing, the British airline said in a statement that its three weekly round-trip flights between Harare and London would end Oct. 28.

Acute fuel shortages in Zimbabwe have forced the airline to bring in fuel by road and refuel its planes in neighboring countries.

Zimbabwe is also suffering acute shortages of food and most other basic goods. It has the world’s highest official inflation of nearly 7,000 percent, but independent estimates put the rate closer to 25,000 percent and forecast it could reach 100,000 percent by year’s end.

Since often violent government-sanctioned seizures of thousands of white-owned commercial farms peaked in 2001, the agriculture-based economy of this former regional breadbasket has collapsed.

Australian, French, Dutch and Portuguese airlines already withdrew service to Zimbabwe, leaving state-owned Air Zimbabwe, South African Airways and two other African airlines flying to Harare.

A nation in decline
As Zimbabwe’s economy continues to spiral into freefall, President Robert Mugabe’s repressive regime is hanging on by a thread. Take a look at Zimbabwe’s tumultuous path since independence.

Steve Harrison, British Airways commercial manager for southern Africa, said spiraling operating costs and falling passenger numbers left the airlines with considerable losses on the Harare route.

The economic situation in Zimbabwe has contributed to a decline in market demand. The withdrawal of Harare flights is for commercial reasons as it is becoming increasingly difficult to justify our operation, Harrison said in the statement.