Precision Air CEO Ms. Sauda Rajab sets the record straight

PRECISION AIR’S CEO PUTS THE RECORD STRAIGHT

(Posted 18th November 2013)

Following a great many misconceptions and misperceptions, besides outright mischievious comments made in the local Tanzanian and regional media, ATC News took the time to get in touch with Precision Air to give the airline through CEO Miss Sauda Rajab the opportunity to set the record straight and have her say as to what is true and what is sheer ‘Jet A1 fumes, aka rumours’.

Find Miss Rajab’s explanation to the various issues in the public domain below.

Firstly, I would like to put the record straight. The recent reports in the media that the Tanzania government has refused Precision Air’s bailout request are grossly inaccurate – the matter is still very much under discussion. The reports also falsely stated that we asked for a loan, which is not the case at all. We went to the government with a proposal that would see them buy a stake in the airline. The government has since come back to us requesting further details, which we are currently preparing. We have not received any communication from the government to tell us that they are not interested.

I have been asked why we went to the government rather than other investors. We did consult other people, but, by offering shares to the government, we can keep the airline in the hands of the Tanzanian people – a fundamental part of our mission statement. Some 59% of the airline is in the hands of the wananchi – and we want to keep it that way.

MOVING FORWARD

Whatever happens with our proposal to the government, I want to assure you that Precision Air is very much here to stay. Since I took over Precision Air some six months ago, we have implemented a five-year plan to eradicate our inefficiencies and to cut costs. This has seen us return the expensive-to-run Boeing 737s and lose some of our loss-making routes, as well as reduce the frequencies on others where appropriate. Internally we have done a lot of work around efficiencies and controls, and these are already bearing fruit. While there is always room for improvement, we are taking steps in the right direction.

I am very proud of my team. They have embraced the changes, made a lot of sacrifices and put in a huge effort, and this is showing in the results that our passengers are experiencing. Precision Air has always been the airline of choice in Tanzania, and we are making every effort to ensure this remains the case for many years to come.

I wish to assure the public that you will have every reason to once more trust and feel proud of your airline. In fact, in the last month, I am already seeing signs that we are getting back on track. Rest assured we have not been sleeping. We are doing whatever it takes to ensure the airline survives, and it will survive.

With regard to the recent problems with delays, I would like to sincerely apologise to our passengers for any inconvenience caused. A lot of these issues were due to faults with our aircraft, and I am pleased to say that these have now been rectified. In the last month or so, we have achieved a 90% on-time performance rating. Some days have seen us clock 100%, and some flights are even leaving ahead of their scheduled departure time. On occasions where there is a delayed departure, my team at the destination make every effort to recover that time lost for our passengers.

THANK YOU

On behalf of the Board, management and staff of Precision Air, I wish to convey our sincere gratitude to our passengers, for your continued support and unstinted loyalty, without which we would not be around today. Secondly, I urge Tanzanians to continue supporting your airline. If Precision Air ceases to exist, you stand to lose a valuable contributor to the social wellbeing and economic development in Tanzania.

In its 20-plus years of existence the airline has made an extensive contribution to our country and the wananchi. Today we are known as an airline superbrand in Tanzania, and in October we were crowned the Best Domestic Scheduled Airline at the TASOTA 2013 Awards.

We realise this is a journey, and we will continue to work diligently to ensure the role we play serves you well. I encourage you all to sample the ‘new’ Precision Air, and experience the change. I look forward to welcoming you on board soon. You are why we fly.

5 Comments

  1. A woman to my heart !

    When she was KQ MBA based I used to say ‘’Call Sauda at 600am and it will be done by 730am’’ – and it is true to this day .

    We need more people like her to turn this country and our industry around and hence she is only ‘’on loan’’ to TZ!

    Regards

    Chris

  2. I’d like to tell you a story about flying with Precision Air.

    For some background, I am an NGO director working on community empowerment and leadership development programs who spend at least 5-6 months of my year in Africa (everywhere from Sudan to Congo to Ghana to Zimbabwe and everything in between). I facilitate and organize volunteer travel to projects we work with throughout the year, working with around 300 volunteers a year. Most of these volunteers travel to Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, and Malawi, as those projects have the easiest access. I am very familiar with traveling in Africa and consider it a second home to me.

    I have, in the past, used Precision Air for my own flights and for the organizing the flights of all my volunteers traveling between countries in East Africa during their stay. This is probably around 350+ flights a year that we organize through Precision. Now, I have had some trouble in the past with Precision, mostly including complaints from our volunteers that the flights were delayed and a complete lack of customer service at the airports or on the phone (You should be warned that at a lot of the airports, like Entebbe in Uganda, there is very little Precision staff actually at the airport and no specific Precision Air office. They use Kenya Airways employees to manage the flights and if you have any trouble, you have to go to the Kenya Airways office and try to get someone to help you.

    But, despite these consistent complaints, I have never withdrawn my business from Precision (or any company in the past for that matter). But, after what transpired while I was trying to fly Precision Air from Entebbe, Uganda to Zanzibar for the wedding of a dear Tanzanian friend has pushed this issue too far for me.

    It was Tuesday, October 22nd and myself and one volunteer, James Rogers, had a flight booked on Precision Air 763 departing Entebbe, Uganda at 1:55pm (13:55), scheduled to arrive in Zanzibar at 19:10pm that evening. Our original flights were $315.20 each and we purchase them over a month in advance, on September 21st. We arrived to the airport almost 2 hours early, but due to a line of traffic on the road leading up to the airport, it took almost an hour to get through and get us dropped off at the terminal (it was the end of Mecca and hundreds of people were coming to the airport to greet their loved ones and friends returning from the journey- the police were stopping every car and searching it- thus the long line and wait). So, by the time we got to the airport, it was just a few minutes before 1:00pm (12:56 to be exact). We walked into the terminal and proceeded to the counter, where we could see people still checking in as we put our stuff through the security check, but, when we arrived to the counter, the guys standing there said, “sorry flight is closed. You have to check in over an hour in advance”. Let me be clear in stating that we were standing there just before 1:00pm, so only a few minutes past their supposed “hour before flight” statement. Let me also be clear that neither our tickets or the email confirmation from Precision Air, which I have in hand still, say anything at all about needing to be there more than an hour before.

    We asked them several times, very calmly, if we could just check in because we just saw two people checking in for the same flight and they said they “couldn’t help us because they are Kenya Airways staff and the Precision Air manager was down at the gate”. They then called the ONE Precision Air staff, Robert Musoke, that was currently at the airport and he said we needed to go up to the office and try to get help. In disbelief that everyone was just standing around the counters but no one officially could help us, we walked up to the “office”, which took us a while to figure out was really the Kenya Airways office. Inside the office was one young woman who asked if she could help us. We explained our situation and her first response was, ‘That is odd because Kenya Airways always lets people check in up to 45 minutes. But let me call Robert because I can’t do much since it is a Precision Air ticket code” (Robert = the no where to be found and not willing to help Precision Air manager). She tried calling Robert for over a period of ten minutes. When she finally got him on the phone, she said “Why don’t you come up here and help these people. They could have made their flight.” She hung up and told us that she didn’t think Robert was going to try helping us or coming up there anytime soon. But, she said, “If we wanted to spend some more money on a Kenya Airways flight, she could get us out that evening”.

    It took over 45 more minutes for Robert to finally show up as we sat in the office, missing our flight and knowing that because we missed it, we would miss the wedding the next day. When Robert arrived he just said, “sorry, come back tomorrow at 11:00am and you can get on the same flight you were scheduled for today”. We asked him if we could get some proof or ticket or something in writing that said we would be guaranteed a seat the next day and he replied, “no. I’ll be around” and then left the office as we tried to explain to him that because of the lack of customer service and staff, we were now missing the wedding we were going to Zanzibar for.

    We eventually got to a friends house in Kampala to re-group and use the phone to sort out our change of plans. Because Robert didn’t offer us any other options or provide us with any help at the airport, we ended up calling the customer service line on our Precision Air tickets. We spoke to a woman named Hilda at +255 787 888 409. We gave her our ticket numbers and explained a bit of the situation at the airport. She said she could help us and that there were in fact three other flights that next morning, Wednesday October 23rd, that she could get us on but that our same flight the next day was overbooked, so wouldn’t have been able to get on that if we just went back to the airport at 11:00am as Robert had suggested and, on top of it, we would have missed all the other options. Go figure. The flight options where a 5:05am flight operated by Kenya Airways and Precision through Nairobi to Zanzibar or 10:05am flight operated by Kenya Airways and Precision through Nairobi to Zanzibar. We said that if we could get on the 5:05am flight, we could still make our wedding. She said she could change us to that flight for a change fee of $30, but we would need to go to the office in the morning to pay for the fee. We were worried that the office would be closed and we would need a new ticket number or reference number, but she assured us that she changed us to the 5:05am flight and that they would help us at check-in if the office was closed and that we didn’t need a new ticket or reference number.

    So, we drive back to the airport at 2:00am Wednesday morning, after about 3 hours of sleep, arrive around 3:00am to give us plenty of time. We were the first people in line when Kenya Airways opened their counters for the 5:05am flight. A man named Boaz Musinguzi came to help us and told us, “I’m sorry, but I don’t see you in the system for this flight.” We explained everything and who we talked to at Customer Service and that the woman, Hilda, had said she changed us to the 5:05am flight and we just needed to pay the fee of $30 at the counter. Boaz kept trying to call someone from Precision Air, but, of course, it was 3:00am in the morning, so naturally there was no one around from Precision and offices were closed. Boaz said he couldn’t help us because our ticket numbers were Precision Air codes and he didn’t see us in the Kenya Airways system. We stood there with Boaz trying to sort it out for over an hour, up until about 4:45am. I would like to note that as we stood there, we watched people check-in for the flight up until around 4:45am (20 minutes before the flight). Finally, Boaz was able to get Robert to answer his phone (he was at home sleeping) and he said to Boaz, “they missed their flight, so you can’t help them”. Boaz said they only thing he could do was have us buy new flights right then for that morning 5:05am flight (because the later flight Robert had told us to come back for originally was indeed sold out). To buy new tickets, we had to pay $870, or $435 each.

    We were given no other choice and the lack of customer service and help we received was unreal. Because of the actions of Precision Air staff and the lack of customer service, we ended up paying $870 more to get out of Entebbe, on top of the original $630 we spent on our original Precision Air flights. I was shocked at how unhelpful Robert, the one Precision Air staff at the airport, was. How he never mentioned other flight options to us the next morning. How he just told us to come back to the airport the next day at 11:00, knowing we would be screwed yet again. How calling customer service never really helped us, we were back at the airport with no support and no record of a change yet again. How, sadly, we stared to realize that the truth might be that our original flight was oversold, so they just screwed us because we looked like we could pay more money. I hate to say that, because I think that is an overstated fear people have when traveling to Africa and I think, more often than not, people are fair and good. But, in this case, I think, at the end of the day, we got screwed because they could screw us.

    There is absolutely no excuse for this. There is no way we should have paid $870 more to fly out of Entebbe. We should have been on our first flight and any airline with any amount of customer service would have made that happen (as I said earlier, I have flown on hundreds of flights in Africa before and never experiences anything this bad). When we actually flew out the Wednesday morning after buying the new ticket from Kenya Airways, we didn’t get to the gate until 10 minutes before our flight because of all the trouble we were having, yet again, checking in and we still had to wait there until about 5 minutes before the flight time to load a bus and board our plane. It is absolutely ridiculous that when we arrived just under an hour before the previous day, they wouldn’t help us. Whether the lack staff for Precision Air at the airports or the lack of an actual office or the lack of people with customer service skills or complete disorganization on behalf of Precision Air can be blamed, we should not be responsible for that $870.

    Myself, my staff, and all of our volunteers will never be using Precision Air again, at least until we hear from someone at Precision directly.

Comments are closed.