PRECISION AIR TO STICK TO MARKET STRATEGY AS RIVALS REVEAL FARE STRUCTURE
Tanzania’s premier airline Precision Air appears undaunted by the prospect of big talking FastJet coming on line in coming weeks, as another ATR42-600 state of the art turboprop aircraft joined their fleet a few days ago.
FastJet appears to be putting as many as 10 fare classes on the market, starting from 32.000 TShs when prebooked weeks in advance to 170.000 TShs when booked for immediate departure on the flights from Dar es Salaam to both Kilimanjaro and Mwanza, but passengers in addition have to pay for taxes and checked baggage, as well as drinks and food on the plane, driving the overall cost of a flight with them up considerably. FastJet also appears to have a strict policy that should a passenger miss a flight, for whatever reasons, the ticket can neither be refunded nor used on another flight, causing such unfortunate travelers the added cost of having to buy a fresh ticket, then probably voting with their feet as they might never return for a second helping.
In contrast has Precision Air a solid market base already and offers more flights to both Kilimanjaro and the Arusha Municipal air field, as well as to Mwanza, while flights from Kilimanjaro and Dar es Salaam too offer a wider range of departures through codeshared operations with Kenya Airways. Here will in particular the benefits of frequent flyer programmes be an added factor for travelers, which can include upgrades to business class and access to the business class lounges, something the new kid on the block is unable to offer.
It is understood from regular aviation sources in Dar es Salaam that Precision banks on both their jet operated flights on the domestic network between Dar, Kilimanjaro and Mwanza but increasingly on convenient departure times across the day using their fleet of ATR’s which are flying on the route only marginally slower while giving the airline considerable cost savings on fuel, handling and landing / parking fees. A further benefit of having a sizeable turboprop fleet is the ability to fly to a number of destinations in Tanzania where larger jets cannot land, leaving a company like FastJet out in the cold as they only operate Airbus aircraft which are restricted to the main airports in the Tanzania and the region. ‘I think we shall see a strategic game of chess in the skies begin now. FastJet will only be able to offer 2 or 3, at best perhaps 4 departures between Dar and Kili and Mwanza but with their fares need almost full house on every flight to make ends meet. Precision has the flexibility to use ATR’s and offer a lot more departure times because they use smaller planes. And let’s not forget that government will help Air Tanzania in any way they can, including protecting departure times for them. ATCL’s fares right now are not much over those top fares by FastJet and who knows what government will scheme up to give the national airline competitive advantages. And then there is the handling cost where Precision does very cost effective selfhandling and FastJet has to use Swissport and pay what must be much higher cost. Considering that 540 never really made that big an impact on the Tanzanian market when they used a smaller and cheaper to operate CRJ, it will be interesting to see how the new airline with larger planes will manage. This is an endurance race and they will find the going to be tough’ said another regular aviator from Tanzania, stressing his desire for anonymity while quipping ‘Just don’t mention my name because I can guess these fellows cannot be very happy with you the way you exposed them’. True that is but let’s wait for that battle in the Tanzanian skies to commence and see how all this will unfold.