Last September, a Bombardier Q400 NetGen landed at 12.15pm at Dar es Salaam’s Julius Nyerere International Airport (JNIA). A second plane touched down one week later, marking the start of […]
Last September, a Bombardier Q400 NetGen landed at 12.15pm at Dar es Salaam’s Julius Nyerere International Airport (JNIA). A second plane touched down one week later, marking the start of government efforts to revive the country’s struggling national carrier, Air Tanzania.
The government had, in July, signed a purchase agreement with Bombardier Commercial Aircraft for two Q400 turboprop airliners.
According to the manufacturer, Bombardier Inc, a Canadian multinational aerospace and transportation company, the aircraft are the most recent evolution of the Q400 turboprop—they are safe, more fuel-efficient, and represent the ideal solution for cheap local flights.
Being extremely efficient and cost effective, Q400 aircraft are in use in several countries in Africa—including Ethiopia, Kenya, and Nigeria—as well as in North America, Europe, and Asia.
The cost for the two planes was TZS103.4 billion (USD47 million) and they will be owned by the Tanzania Government Flight Agency (TGFA). A leasing agreement with Air Tanzania established the airline will receive and operate the aircraft in a mutually beneficial business model. Additionally, Air Tanzania will be in charge of maintenance, pay for insurance, and provide crew.
The two newly acquired 76-seater Bombardier aircraft will be flying to key domestic routes, but President Magufuli has already announced that the government will purchase two more planes to fly international routes before the end of 2020.
With a capacity of 160 and 240 seats, respectively, they would connect Tanzania with Russia, China, and other key tourist markets in America and Europe.
The national carrier has been for long operating on a loss, accruing debts that, according to some, come up over TZS100 billion. The government, which is the sole shareholder of the airline, announced that once the company is pulled from its debt, Air Tanzania could be floated for sale to the public on the Dar es Salaam Stock Exchange. In the meanwhile, the latest acquisitions are expected to lay the groundwork for improved operations within the country.
Besides the purchase of the two planes, in order to restore glory to the national airline, President Magufuli also decided to renew the management of the national carrier by appointing a new Chairman and Director General, while the Minister for Transport and Communications, Prof Makame Mbarawa, has appointed new board members.
The minister has tasked the new management with quickly turning around the airline, hiring new executives with performance-based contracts, which would see them accountable if they fail to deliver.
It will be a hard task for the newly appointed managers, considering that it seems to be a tough moment for aviation as most direct competitors are currently reporting losses and downsizing their businesses. Additionally, Air Tanzania re-joins the game in a position of disadvantage after having remained for some years a mere spectator, while other local and regional airlines were fully utilizing the country’s skies.
However, should the government’s strategy turn out to be successful, it will make a positive impact on the national economy in terms of jobs, taxes, and its impact on facilitating traffic in and out of the country.
Moreover, integration into the regional air transport network will create new synergies between cities, support tourism attractions, as well as open up foreign markets to Tanzanian exports at a lower cost.
The Fifth Phase government is fully committed to bringing the national carrier back to its old glory. President Magufuli declared his intention to do so during his presidential campaign and, after one year in power, is strongly signaling his desire to get the job done.
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