ATCL vows to fly where others shun

18Dec 2016
Bilham Kimati
Guardian On Sunday
ATCL vows to fly where others shun

Air Tanzania Company Limited (ATCL), the country’s national flag carrier, has boasted of the aviation industrial prowess, saying it would go to destinations where other local air giants had surrendered their routes citing high operational costs.

FastJet and PrecisionAir have of late abandoned a number of domestic and regional routes, citing high operational costs. But ATCL has said it would brave the forsaken destinations, with a pledge to make enormous profits.

“ATCL competitors have stopped flying to those destinations mainly because of high operational costs, and nothing else,” Dr Leonard Chamriho, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Works, Transport and Communication said.

He was responding to a question over how ATCL would overcome local aviation industrial challenges to which other strong local airlines had recently succumbed, citing PrecisionAir and Fastjet dropping the Songwe International Airport in Mbeya, as an example.

“Unlike huge fuel-guzzling planes of our competitors, ATCL’s Bombardier planes are very cost-effective using very little amount of fuel” he said, adding; “their purchase was not a coincidence as the process involved a meticulous feasibility study with regard to the running expenses and their efficiency.”

He said ATCL would fly to all earmarked domestic and international destinations with a clear understanding and application of principles of competitive commercial operations.

He said he was optimistic about ATCL’s business plans, adding that the company was endowed with skilled aviation operatives, with aircrafts of creditable stability and minimal fuel consumption rate, among other features.

Professional management of the national carrier and proper identification of potential destinations would sustain the firm’s air services to the comfort of travellers, he said.

But Chamriho took the opportunity to counter former Prime Minister Edward Lowassa’s remark, who had questioned the government’s rationality in buying expensive aircrafts instead of ending poverty in the country, when he was addressing members of his Chama Cha Demokrasia na Maendeleo (CHADEMA) in Tabora recently.

Chamriho said there was nothing wrong in the purchase of the airplanes because the venture was within the budget folds and that it was approved by the National Assembly.

“Anyone who wants to challenge the move should start with asking the legislators in the House. The government has not bypassed the authorized budget. The budget speech of the Financial Year 2016/2017 revealed everything about revival of the national carrier and the mode of procurement,” he said.

He said that there was also a budget for the support of community development projects whose implementation plan had been designed in phases to meet the 2025 National Development Vision.

But businessman Justin Ngidanya (58) who had been regular customer to Air Tanzania Corporation (ATC) when it was up and running took a flight aboard the Bombardier from Mwanza to Dar es Salaam on Wednesday and had a story to tell.

“Unlike ATC, there are no longer unnecessary delays; the crew and management as a whole maintain discipline... no more rude remarks typical of the former national carrier,” he said.

Sauda Hassan Shawej from Zanzibar who arrived at Julius Nyerere International Airport (JNIA) in Dar es Salaam the same day using the Bombardier from Kilimanjaro International Airport said “I’ve never had such comfortable moment in flights”.

“The services are quite impressive. Gone were the days when planes would fly with a lot of empty seats leaving passengers stranded on the ground. Looks like corruption is no more with the new flights,” she said.

Earlier in the year, the government bought two Bombardier Dash 8 Q400 airplanes from Canada for ATCL in its struggle to revive the doomed aviation industry.

Late September, President John Magufuli officiated the inaugural ceremony of the two airplanes at JNIA amid applaud from local business tycoons, state and foreign dignitaries.

“You cannot dream of boosting tourism industry at the mercy of your neighbour’s aviation. With new planes, visitors from New York, Moscow and London will take direct flights to our country, and the local travellers will enjoy services at affordable costs,” Magufuli said.

He said Tanzanians should expect three more Bombardier CS 300 model airplanes that will accommodate between 137 and 150 passengers in May and June next year.

It was later revealed that plans were also underway for the government to buy a 262-seat Boeing 787 aircraft scheduled for arrival in June 2018.