Clock ticking for Fastjet amid mounting troubles

Monday December 17 2018


By Gadiosa Lamtey @gadiosa2

Dar es Salaam. Fastjet Airlines Ltd (Tanzania) executive chairman Lawrence Masha is running against time to stabilise the company, whose mounting challenges could see the authorities grounding the budget airline’s operations.

Mr Masha – who only recently acquired 68 per cent of the shares of the struggling air carrier and, thereby, took control of the business – has only 11 days in which to effectively counter a threat by the Tanzania Civil Aviation Authority (TCAA) to withdraw the operating licence of the carrier.

TCAA director general Hamza Johari told The Citizen yesterday that the civil aviation regulator in Tanzania is seriously considering cancelling Fastjet’s operating licence. This comes amid mounting flight cancellations that have been playing merry hell with travellers’ holiday plans, especially during this festive Christmas season.

A statement by the national Aviation Authority which was released just a few days after the airline suspended its domestic and foreign flights said that the suspensions forced more than 100 passengers who were booked to travel with the airline to spend the night in town.

“We suspended all foreign trips (by Fastjet) since December 2 this year after realising that the airline was facing a financial crisis. The company will only resume foreign trips after we are fully satisfied that it has the capacity to operate foreign trips,” said Mr Johari, who confirmed that the ultimatum to the airline was issued by TCAA on December 2.

Failure of the airline to effectively address the problems within the period of the regulator’s ultimatum will result in the airline’s licence being revoked, Mr Johari categorically stressed.

According to him, Fastjet Tanzania started facing a financial crisis after one of the firm’s original owners, Fastjet Plc (49 per cent shares), withdrew from ownership of the airline and the airline was sold to Tanzanian investors beginning on November 14, 2014.

The Citizen tried to reach Mr Masha, who recently became the airlines majority shareholder.

A former Tanzania Home Affairs minister, Lawrence Masha raised his stake in the airline from the previous four per cent to 68 per cent earlier this month.

On Thursday last week, Fastjet cancelled its scheduled flight to Harare, the Zimbabwe capital. That was only a few days after TCCA had warned the airline against such wanton actions.