ATCL scrambles to resume flights to beat FastJet to the door to the skies



At the recently concluded ‘World Routes’ meeting in Abu Dhabi did senior staff of new kid on the block ‘FastJet’ tell the media that their first route will be from Dar es Salaam to Nairobi, supposed to be with three daily frequencies using an Airbus A319 with about 150 seats in an all economy configuration.

Flights on domestic routes between Dar es Salaam to Kilimanjaro and Mwanza are expected to follow, before adding more destinations where an A319 can land and where the expected traffic loads would allow financially viable operations.

Aviation analysts are however doubtful how the model of a European LCC can be transferred to Eastern Africa, where NO secondary airports with substantially lower charges and handling fees are available to bring cost down and where regulatory fees and taxes could be 10 times as much as a once floated fare of just 20 US Dollars per sector, preventing a sharp rise in demand for airtravel which would be required to fill the seats.

In addition seems the Tanzanian authorities hell bent to get Air Tanzania back into the air before FastJet commences operations, cognizant of the fact that should yet another competitor enter the market before ATCL flies once more, the start for the national airline could be short lived and expensive.

Our government speaks in two tongues’ said a regular source from Dar es Salaam before adding ‘They invite investors with big promises and like you will see here, they will heavily subsidize Air Tanzania to tile the market in their favour. Meanwhile they will tax the new airline and make them spend money but at the same time compete through a different arm of government. That is NOT what a free market economy is supposed to be. These antiquated policies have harmed Precision Air and others before because it is difficult to compete with a company which does not apparently need to make profits. OK, Precision is now too big to outcompete and is reliable and offers good service, but with FastJet, they have not started and will find not just Precision and Kenya Airways to contend with but also now ATCL again’.

Too late now for sure for the new airline to re-consider as the aircraft has reportedly been procured and flight operations are due to start by November or latest early December, at which time ATCL might well be back on the Nairobi route themselves, making a market entry then a financially bloody battle for the newcomers. Watch this space.