How airlines fared amid Covid crisis

Tuesday October 12 2021
Airline PIC
By Alex Nelson Malanga

Dar es Salaam. Cutthroat competition characterised civil aviation in Tanzania airlines last year as operators sought to stay afloat amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

A new report says that Air Tanzania Company Ltd (ATCL), Auric Air Services and Assalaam Air (Z) Limited managed to up their marketshares during the period.

As the pandemic bit hard, the number of tourist arrivals plunged, forcing Precision Air and Coastal Travel Limited - which are considered feeder airlines - to reduce their capacities, leading to reductions in their market shares.

As it is, a number of passengers who took flights last year dwindled by 50 percent - to 2.8 million - compared to 2019, according to the latest report of the Tanzania Civil Aviation Authority (TCAA).

The report says that the national carrier’s market share rose to 47.7 percent last year, from the 42 percent recorded in the preceding year, making it remain at the top as the market leader.

During the period, Auric Air managed to capture 10.1 percent of the market, up from 8.5 percent.

Advertisement

Assalaam Air, too, managed to get 5.3 percent of the market share compared to the previous 4.2 percent.

Interestingly, despite dropping its market share from 28.8 percent to 26 percent, Precision Air remained at second place in market dominance, after ATCL.

On the other hand, Coastal Travel’s market share dropped from 6.1 percent to 3.5 percent.

ATCL managing director Ladislaus Matindi said yesterday that the improvement in its market share was attributed to an increase in the airline’s destinations and frequencies, as well as quality but also affordable services.

“To attract more passengers, we expanded our destinations by launching new Mpanda and Geita routes, and resuming our flights to Songea, bringing the total of our domestic destinations to 15,” Mr Matindi told The Citizen.

Precision Air’s commercial director, Ms Lilian Masawe, linked the slight decrease in market share to a cut in flying capacity due to a fall in the number of tourists coming to the country.

“About 60-70 percent of our performance is much linked with tourism. We had to reduce our capacity significantly,” Ms Masawe told The Citizen, citing the Zanzibar-Arusha and Zanzibar-Kilimajaro routes as examples.

With the fall in demand, she explained, Precision Air was forced to use more of ATR 42-500 than ATR 72-500 aircraft in the market.

Again, she added, they had to cut the number of aircraft in the market from six during normal flight schedules to three.

Noting that their survival depended significantly on international airlines which bring in tourists, the Coastal Travels’ managing director, Captain Maynard Mkumbwa, said that - what with the Covid-19 pandemic stillrampaging - they were compelled to cancel flights and/or cut flight frequencies. “From April to June last year, we cancelled almost all flights in routes with loss-making elements,” Captain Mkumbwa told The Citizen. He cited some of the affected routes as Zanzibar, Mafia and Arusha, as well as the Serengeti, Ruaha, Selous and Lake Manyara wildlife reserves.

“We have resumed all the flights, but at decreased frequencies,” he stressed.

As it so happened, Coastal Travels had also reduced the number of its aircraft in the market from 19 last year to the current 16, aimed at reducing operational costs.

Last year, the airline - whose monthly number of passengers before Covid-19 stood at an average of 200,000 - was operating at 30 percent of the pre-pandemic capacity.