Usually well-informed sources from the aviation industry in Tanzania have suggested that a new round of talks is presently ongoing between the Tanzania Civil Aviation Authority (TCAA) and their Kenyan counterparts the Tanzania Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA) over the long withheld landing rights for Fastjet on the route between Dar es Salaam and Nairobi.
There has been emerging grapevine talk emerging in recent weeks that the Tanzania Civil Aviation Authority may once again resort to punitive measures against Kenyan airlines flying to Tanzania and enforce the valid Bilateral Air Services Agreement, in short BASA, should the Kenyans continue to obstruct Fastjet’s efforts to commence the flights to Nairobi as sanctioned by the Tanzanian government.
“The election campaign right now is both a blessing and an opportunity. The politicians have taken their eyes off the ball, and the TCAA can spring a surprise on Kenya like they did in early 2015. One of the two sides competing for the presidency will for sure jump on that and make it a campaign issue, rallying Tanzanians against their neighbors. It has always worked as a short-term tactical measure and then Kenya is in the same fix again like they were in March,” said one regular source from Dar es Salaam. If indeed this is so, the Kenyan CAA would no doubt have heard those whispers, too, and rather than having another war of the airways break out, perhaps this time show some respect for their Tanzanian colleagues and finally sanction Fastjet’s landing rights.
This, however, has nothing to do with the pending application by Fastjet PLC to set up a Kenyan franchise as the two issues are legally separate and not linked.
Said another source, a travel agent from Dar es Salaam, when contacted: “If Fastjet finally gets landing rights to Nairobi, it will be a day of celebrations. Finally the fares would come down to a tiny fraction of what my clients pay right now. It will pit Kenya Airways (KQ) and Fastjet head on, and I fear that Precision might pull from the route just like they did from Mbeya when Fastjet started flights there. It will be just like on the route to Johannesburg, low-cost versus full-service airline, and the market will decide which airline to use. Many people will continue to fly KQ because of connections, their frequent flyer program, and others will just look at the price and say that for a pre-booked day trip, a one-way fare of US$50 plus taxes will mean money in their pockets. Generally, it is high time that we get some competition just like you in Uganda now have RwandAir on the route to Nairobi. We need that sort of competition also.”
The coming weeks are thought to be decisive in having a decision finally made, also then lifting the cloud of suspicion over the KCAA for playing foul and ignoring the rules and regulations of the East African Community, just like they did with RwandAir’s fifth freedom right applications at the end of last year. That took head of state intervention to resolve, while in the case of Tanzania, probably brute force vis-a-vis a curb on frequencies, might do the trick.