AIR TANZANIA ‘ON THE GROUND’ AS LAST PLANE GOES FOR MAINTENANCE
Sources in Dar es Salaam have confirmed that the erstwhile national airline’s last operational plane, a Bombardier Q300, was sent to for heavy maintenance to South Africa, leaving ATCL literally stranded. Having failed to plan forward and have a suitable aircraft leased for the duration – heavy maintenance can take months if major additional workscope is discovered when ‘opening’ the aircraft up in the hangar – the airline’s executives are now belatedly scrambling to rectify the situation. However, at present this seems an uphill challenge as the financial situation of the airline is grave to start with and any other airline willing to provide one of their turboprops to ATCL would require substantial prepayments of the lease fees, unless they too want to risk having to go to court to recover their dues, as is presently the case with many suppliers and travel agents suing ATCL.
Meanwhile, Precision Air and Fly 540 Tanzania both are taking full advantage of this situation and are expected to diligently serve those destination the sole aircraft of Air Tanzania has been flying to from Dar es Salaam, in order to make a return to the skies for ATCL even harder. The privately owned airlines are now operating a wider domestic and regional network and more frequencies than ATCL has done in the more recent past and have swooped the market with better service and competitive air fares.
The Tanzanian government has also been notably shtumm on the development although a reaction is expected sooner rather than later, considering that the powerful aviation and transport workers union only two weeks ago called for the dismissal of the ATCL management.
Will this airline survive, considering also the rising fuel cost, heavy financial commitments to staff and for recurrent expenditure and creditors snapping on its heels without a single Shilling coming in – time will tell, so watch this space.