Air Tanzania efficiency now on the spotlight

Saturday January 12 2019


By Ludger Kasumuni and Alex Malanga

Dar es Salaam. The national carrier, ATCL, yesterday received the second Airbus A220-300 aircraft in a ceremony presided by President John Magufuli. The newly delivered airliner increases ATCL fleet of long-range aircraft to three- two Airbus A200-300 and one Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner.

But the Tanzania flag carrier received the new aircraft amidst questions about its efficiency, preparedness and capacity to fully and profitably utilise the costly, long-range aircraft.

In fact, President Magufuli put ATCL management on notice yesterday warning that the government will not hesitate to take back the aircraft if the company fails to use them efficiently.

“These six new aircraft do not belong to ATCL. They belong to the government. If they are not efficiently and profitably utilised we will take them back and lease them out to other aviation firms, including Precision Air,” President Magufuli noted.

Aviation experts who spoke to The Citizen in exclusive interviews also said ATCL management would have to work extra hard to ensure that its pace marches the government’s.

Jimray Nangawe, an aviation consultant told The Citizen that he was optimistic that ATCL will make it “The recent reinstatement of its International Air Transport Association Clearing House (ICH) credentials give us confidence because it now stands a chance to sell its tickets globally,” Mr Nangawe noted.

But he noted that the company should up its game, especially as far as efficient utilisation of the long-range aircraft is concerned.

“The Boeing and Airbus aircraft are meant to be utililised for long routes. it is uneconomical, for example, for Boing 787-8 Dreamliner to ply domestic routes,” Mr Nangawe, told The Citizen in an interview.

He advise the government and ATCL to work closely together to enable profitable deployment of the aircraft.

“Is the government’s aircraft purchasing arrangement in tandem with ATCL business strategy? Are they working closely enough to ensure that when the equipment arrive they are deployed on the requisite routes in due time?” Mr Nangawe queried.

Mr Juma Fimbo, an aviation consultant and trainer, commended the government’s efforts to restore ATCL.

But indications of lack of comprehensive preparedness for the national carrier should be a source of concern, he warned.

“We need to learn from past mistakes… for the ATCL restore its lost glory, it should have smart plans and vision in place,” Mr Fimbo noted.

Way forward

President Magufuli yesterday ordered the ATCL management to control its costs. “ATCL planes were being highly misused in the past, sometimes being deployed to Dubai to ferry clothing consignments for the company’s officials. That must end,” President Magufuli said during the ceremony to receive the new Airbus A200-300 aircraft.

Mr Fimbo advised the government to borrow a leaf from Ethiopian Airways and Egypt Air as far as the composition of the board of directors is concerned.

“Board members should be aviation experts to improve decision making... But ATCL should also give short contracts foreign aviation experts to enable the local staff to learn from,” Mr Fimbo noted.

Entering code sharing arrangements with international airlines is also the way to go for ATCL to make full use of long routes, Mr Nangawe noted.

“Alliances would also enable ATCL to strengthen its competitive position and to improve its access to existing and emerging markets and hence increase passenger traffic,” Mr Nangawe added.

The Tanzania Civil Aviation Authority director general, Hamza Johari, allayed fears about delays in deployment of the long-range aircraft that have already been delivered to ATCL.

“It is a normal practice for small airlines that are in an expansion strategy, such as the ATCL, to ground their new aircraft for some time before starting to fly. This is because there are some regulatory procedures which they need to fulfil before kicking off routes and that is what ATCL is doing,” he noted.