Struggling national carrier Air Zimbabwe this week sunk to new lows after it resorted to issuing handwritten boarding passes — triggering a torrent of bad jokes from travellers expressing their shock at the extent of the rot devouring the airline.

This comes as the debt-ridden flag carrier is struggling to operate its full complement of aircraft, a development which recently forced its single biggest customer, President Robert Mugabe, to hire private jets.

The embarrassing ticketing fiasco emerged after one irate passenger travelling from Johannesburg to Bulawayo posted the shoddily-issued boarding stub on his Facebook wall.

This showed a piece of paper with Air Zimbabwe’s date stamp on it, as well as handwritten flight details, including the passenger’s name, seat number and city of departure and destination.

The passenger told the Daily News in a telephone interview yesterday that the handwritten boarding passes were also given to him after enduring a lengthy flight delay.

He claimed that the travel documents did not have any security features such as a barcode, and appeared “very fake”.

Air Zimbabwe sales and marketing manager Christopher Kwenda confirmed yesterday that all flight details, including names and seat numbers, were written in ink for some passengers travelling from Joburg to Bulawayo and Victoria Falls.

“What is happening is that we are combining flights, Joburg-Bulawayo and Joburg-Vic Falls. It becomes difficult to combine the two loads because of capacity.

“The printing pass system is programmed for one flight, so we print for the flight with more passengers. The rest is handwritten.

“It’s not like the system is down or the airline is facing any problems and it’s not like this is happening with all our flights, it’s just one flight,” Kwenda told the Daily News.

The global aviation industry has moved to electronic ticketing in line with latest standards approved by the International Air Transport Association (IATA), whose policy is to ensure airline safety, security and efficiency.

Air Zimbabwe, which is said to be losing up to $3 million a month, is saddled with a $300 million declared debt.

The national carrier has also over the past three decades struggled to shake off claims of corruption and ineptitude, which has led to the dismissals of several of its boards and senior managers.

Last month, Mugabe was forced to hire a private jet for his overseas travels after it emerged that the poorly-performing national carrier had failed to complete the servicing of its planes.

The airline’s entire fleet was grounded as it was said to be undergoing mandatory maintenance checks.

As a result, Mugabe had to lease a private jet from Bahrain, which he used to travel to Singapore and Ghana.

Air Zim’s old fleet comprises two Boeing 767s, three 737s, three MA60s and two Airbus A320s. However, only four of those are flying: one airbus, one Boeing 767, one 737 and an MA60. Daily News