Air Tanzania – the future remains uncertain

Air Tanzania’s second aircraft, a Bombardier Q300 turboprop, returned to service earlier in the week after a lengthy absence from the skies due to the plane undergoing heavy maintenance.

The first flight conducted took off from Dar es Salaam to Kigoma before the aircraft then resumed services to such other destinations, where ATCL had to suspend services while the plane was being overhauled, as Mwanza and Mtwara.

The airline’s second aircraft, a leased Bombardier CRJ200 jet, has remained in operations serving such destinations like the Comoros but due to runway conditions not able to fly to Kigoma or Mtwara.

While the return of this aircraft to service is seen as a positive development – maintenance was carried out by ATCL’s inhouse maintenance facility in Dar es Salaam – does the future of the company remain hanging in the balance after a recent report emerged that no audited accounts had been approved for several years. President Magufuli, while still on the campaign trail, had among other public companies also named Air Tanzania as one of the parastatals which will receive his attention once elected. Going by rapid management changes and pending prosecutions for former staff of the Tanzania Revenue Authority, the Tanzania Ports Authority and other bodies does a cloud hang over Air Tanzania, when top level attention will turn their way and hard questions be asked, what happened to billions of Shillings in subsidies and bailouts over the past few years.

Said a Dar es Salaam based regular aviation source: ‘Here in Tanzania does Precision Air have the market for secondary airports wrapped up because their ATR fleet is best suited to land on those shorter runways. As far as jet aviation, domestic and regional is concerned, Fastjet now controls that market. They have limitations to flying to some airports where there might be demand but for where their Airbus A319 cannot land. Then there are those companies with smaller planes like Auric or Coastal Aviation which served a lot of places including national parks. You can see how difficult it is for Air Tanzania to survive such competition. They have few flights and the cash flow generated cannot financially sustain them for too long before they need more bailout money. I think it is time to let the market decide which airline survives and which does not. Fastjet flies to four domestic destinations out of Dar and to six African destinations and you wonder if there is any space left for ATCL to effectively compete. At least their turboprop is back in service which speaks for the competence of their engineering department but this is where my applaus ends because commercially, they are lost’.

It was Air Tanzania’s erratic performance in recent years, when at times suspended and at times with just one or no aircraft due to maintenance works, saw their passengers walk away from them to Fastjet, Precision, Auric and Coastal while the moribund national airline was unable to operate flights. Time, as always, will tell so look no further but this space for breaking and regular aviation news from across Eastern Africa.