by Ben Taylor
Limits to President Magufuli’s bankrolling of Air Tanzania?
A recent audit report by the Controller Auditor General for 2017/18 shows that Air Tanzania Limited (ATCL) has more than halved its losses over the period of three years since President Magufuli began efforts to revitalise the airline. The airline has domestic flight schedules to Bukoba, Dodoma, Kilimanjaro, Mtwara, Mbeya, Mwanza, Songea, Tabora and Zanzibar and six regional routes to the Comoros, Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda, Zimbabwe and Zambia. It currently has a fleet of eight planes, including six purchased under President Magufuli.
Speaking in January, President John Magufuli ruled out the possibility that the government will protect ATCL even if it makes losses as in the past.
Inaugurating the latest addition to the ATCL fleet, a second Airbus A220-300, the President told the ATCL management to ensure that the national flag carrier does not become a burden on tax payers. “I will not hesitate to transfer ownership of ATCL aircraft and other assets, let us say to Precision Air in case the ATCL management fails to ensure that the public airline maintains high level of efficiency,” he said.
Nevertheless, the President showed no signs of slowing down in its campaign to revamp the national flag carrier. He promised that the government will purchase two more aircraft, including another Dreamliner and another Airbus by next January. “In the next 10 years I want the country to have at least 100 aircraft,” he said, “in order for ATCL to compete with other foreign airlines on relatively equal footing.”
The ATCL Chief Executive Officer, Mr Ladislaus Matindi said at the same occasion that the ATCL-Five Year Plan which kicked off in 2017, was going on well.
In addition to the expanded fleet, he said the airline has recorded a number of achievements in the past three years. This includes an increase in the number of pilots from 10 to 50 with a plan to recruit 10 more by the end of this year and attaining a workforce of 380.
Under the Medium Plan for the next 20 years, ATCL has a vision to expand cargo services within the country and internationally with capacity to compete with international airlines flying to Far East, Europe and Americas. Canadian High Commissioner to Tanzania, Pamela O’Donnell said that the purchase of such modern aircrafts had signalled renewed cooperation between Canada and Tanzania that has lasted for decades since independence in 1961.
Air Tanzania launched new international routes to Lusaka in Zambia and Harare in Zimbabwe in February. Further, in April the airline announced that a new route to Johannesburg in South Africa was scheduled to begin operations in July 2019. “We will start advertising the route and reveal fares soon after we start selling tickets,” said the company managing director, Mr Ladislaus Matindi.
Mr Matindi added that preparations for flights outside the African continent – specifically to Mumbai in India and Guanzhou in China – had reached an advanced stage. “The Mumbai and Guangzhou flights will be inaugurated when negotiations with authorities in targeted countries to enable us to land are completed.”