Dar es Salaam. The low-cost air carrier – which is struggling to come back into scheduled flights – boldly announced that it was able, willing and ready to refund its customers after suspending routine flights over what were termed “operational issues.” As it has turned out, however, The Citizen has seen some individuals thronging the company’s offices in the city centre to claim their refunds – with most of them ‘wearing’ gloomy faces suggestive of uncertainty and/or disappointment.
Customers who had paid their fares electronically were told that there was “a network problem,” while those who paid in cool, hard cash were directed to another office of the airline located at the Julius Nyerere International Airport (JNIA) on the outskirts of the sprawling city. “This is the third time I have come here to follow-up on my money. I paid through M-Pesa, and have already completed the refund claim procedures. But, they have been telling me repeatedly that the money would be ready soon,” one would-be Fastjet traveler who identified himself as Mr Atanus Sospeter told The Citizen at the airline’s offices along Samora Machel Avenue in the city centre.
“It looks like they have no money – and they don’t want to tell us the truth,” a clearly disappointed Sospeter said, revealing that he is pursuing demand only Sh206,000 for his cancelled Dar es Salaam-Mwanza flight. Josephat Mmbula who is in Dar es Salaam on vacation has been chasing his refund for more than a week now, without success.
“In the beginning, they said they would issue me another ticket and since I was still on leave, I agreed. My vacation is almost over, the airline is not operating – and I now want to go back to Mwanza,” said Mr Mmbula, claiming to have visited the airline’s offices four times, all in vain.
“I want my money back so that I can find an alternative transport,” he added. On Wednesday, the Fastjet executive chairman, Mr Lawrence Masha, said his company has already paid some of the refunds –and frankly admitted that it had run out of funds after leasing an aircraft from South Africa.
“Our priority is actually to fly these customers to their intended destinations, not to refund their fares. However, the Tanzania Civil Aviation Authority (TCAA) has not yet cleared Fastjet to resume operations,” Mr Masha said by way of explanation.
A former government minister for Home Affairs, Mr Masha currently owns 68 per cent of the airline. On Thursday, the TCAA director general, Mr Hamza Johari, said the Authority will make sure that all passengers owed by Fastjet are refunded their unutilized fares. To that end, he directed the airline to submit to TCAA a list of all the people who are entitled to a refund -- complete with its payment plan.