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Tanzania’s troubled airline to resume flights

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DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania (eTN) – Forty five days after its suspension from aviation operations, Tanzania’s troubled airline Air Tanzania Company Limited (ATCL) is likely to be in the skies again.

DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania (eTN) – Forty five days after its suspension from aviation operations, Tanzania’s troubled airline Air Tanzania Company Limited (ATCL) is likely to be in the skies again.

Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete met with the ATCL management and its board of directors and ordered them to ensure that the crippled airline should enter the skies with immediate effect.

The president was briefed by the airline’s management of the serious problems facing the national carrier and ordered it to start operations in a move he said was his personal involvement to see the airline’s planes in the sky.

He instructed the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs to avail funds to the airline to enable it fly this week.

The loss-making airline was banned from skies on December 8 last year by the Tanzania Civil Aviation Authority (TCAA) due to some documentation problems, that also led to the suspension of the airline by the International Airline Transport Association (IATA).

The suspension was lifted three weeks later after the problems were worked out.

Though allowed to operate, the airline had lost its credibility among clients who have switched off their bookings to the privately-owned Precisionair, which had taken a big stake of Tanzania’s aviation sector. It will begin service with one small aircraft, a DASH-8 with a capacity to fly 50 passengers each.

Aviation analysts said ATCL will still face tough days ahead in its operations because of poor budget needed to recuperate it. The government released some US$ 3 million to the airline as salaries for its more than 300 staff, but the management said the amount was too small.

On the other hand, ATCL management needs at least, US$72 million to make the airline operate profitably.

Analysts say the airline continues to be the taxpayers burden because it makes no profit at all while holding big debts to its suppliers and contractors.

They see no reason for the government to foot its losses through taxpayers money while most Tanzanian are sinking in an abyss of poverty with key social services including education and health services lacking essential facilities.

Since its establishment 30 years ago, the airline has been operating with losses but survived through government subsidy.