Airline operators threaten to sue TCAA over Dnata deal

Dar es Salaam. The Tanzania airline operators association (Taoa) has issued a notice demanding the Tanzania Civil Aviation Authority (TCAA) to take immediate action regarding the exclusive status granted to Dnata Zanzibar at the Abeid Aman Karume International Airport (AAKIA).

In a notice served by B and E Ako Law, the association is protesting the granting of exclusive rights by Zanzibar Airports Authority (ZAA) to manage the Terminal 3 building at the AAKIA.

In the October 10, notice that The Citizen has seen, the association is demanding that TCAA intervenes and appropriately act within its mandate to halt ZAA’s directive of September 14, 2022 because it acted beyond the authority’s legal powers and is in contravention of the law.

“In the event TCAA neglecting to perform its duties as demanded herein within seven (7) days from the date of this letter, the Association will not have any other option but seeking legal redress in appropriate judicial authorities against TCAA’s abdication of its duties and allowing ZAA to act ultra vires,” reads part of the notice .

The association claims in the notice that TCAA failed to observe or appropriately act within its mandate by failing to carry out an inquiry before exclusivity was given to DNATA or allowing ZAA  to grant exclusivity to DNATA while fully aware that such powers are not delegable and can only be performed by TCAA.

 The association also states that ZAA’s September 14 notice was contrary to the decision of the board of directors of Tanzania Civil Aviation Authority (TCAA) No. 01 of 2022 which prohibits, among other things, monopolisation and segregation of terminals.

According to Taoa, regulation 20 of the Civil Aviation (Ground Handling Services) Regulations of 2012, requires the selection procedures of ground handlers to adhere to principles of transparent, non-discrimination and international competitive tendering.

“This anticompetitive environment is not ideal for consumers which the law seeks to protect,” reads the notice.

What happened?

On September 14, the Zanzibar Airports Authority (ZAA) issued a directive which gave the Dubai based company Dnata exclusive access to the new terminal which was constructed at a cost of $120 million.

The order by ZAA, gave ground handling firms that currently operate at Zanzibar’s Abeid Amani Karume International Airport up to December 1 to vacate the newly constructed Terminal III, instructing airlines to make arrangements to work with Dnata.

“As from December 1, 2022, unless informed otherwise by the authority, all services from terminal 3 shall be conducted under the auspices of Dnata for provision of ground handling and the Marhaba lounge Services,” read the letter.

As a result , Airlines that ply the Zanzibar route have already started withdrawing from the existing ground handlers as directed by ZAA.

Details that the Citizen has seen show that ground handlers Transworld have been the first victims of the directive after they were given notices by two Airlines which they were serving- Eurowings and Neos.

The two companies site the ZAA directive as the main reason why they are terminating their contracts and not otherwise.

“I hereby send you the termination of our contract effective from October 31. As you know this went beyond our decision and was forced by ZAA in order to continue operations at Terminal 3. According to the current schedule our last flight served by TWA will be NO346/27OCT,” reads one of the notices sent to one ground handler.

The two ground handling companies handle all the international flights at the AAKIA with ZAT serving Etihad, Qatar Airways, Oman Air, Turkish Airlines Lot polish, Air Tanzania, Precision Air, Tui and Ethiopian Airlines.

On the other hand, Transworld, which has been operating at the airport for the past six years, has Kenya Airways, Air France, KLM, Edelweiss, and Eurowings as part of its clientele list

Dnata deal

In November 2021, Dnata signed a contract with authorities in Zanzibar to provide ground handling services at newly built Terminal 3 at the airport.

As part of the contract, two other Emirates’ subsidiaries, Emirates Leisure Retail and MMI will operate all 13 retailers and two lounges in the terminal. These include restaurant, duty free and commercial outlets.