THE government has hailed Precision Air for flying high the national flag and pledged more support to the airline.
The Minister for Transport, Dr Harrison Mwakyembe said at the launch of Precision Air's state-of-the-art ATR 42-600 plane on Wednesday evening that the company has continued to perform well in the aviation industry despite facing various challenges.
"You (Precision Air) has held the country's flag very high...without mincing words, I need to say that the government appreciates your work and rest assured of our support", said the minister.
He said the airline which started from a humble beginning is a good example on how a Tanzanian could dare and venture into such business which has now put the airline as the best example in aviation industry in Africa. The minister said the government is investing heavily in improving infrastructure in all airports across the country to cope with the fast growth of the airline industry.
"There are a number of challenges regarding our airports. Passenger terminals are too small to meet the demands. The government has started to work on this challenge", he said. Currently, expansion of Mwanza and Kilimanjaro passenger terminals is going on with the Julius Nyerere International Airport (JNIA) in Dar es Salaam next on the line.
In his keynote address, Precision Air Chairman, Mr Michael Shirima, said the airline is doing well despite various challenges in the sector. "This is not a right business for someone with a small heart due to tough challenges in the aviation industry" Mr Shirima, who is also the founder of the airline, said.
Regarding competition in the market, Mr Shirima said the management was prepared for that. "We are ready now and for next challenges given the skills and know-how of the airline staff which they have accumulated over a decade and half ago", he said.
He said Precision Air was not operating like budget airlines. "Ours is to provide quality services to enable passengers to smile all the way," he said said. He added that his company won't lower fares wantonly, saying such move would compromise quality of their services.
Precision Air CEO and Group Managing Director Alfonse Kioko also used the occasion to announce his intention to leave the company after over ten years at the helm of the airline. "I want to take a break. Initially I wanted to serve only five years but the humbleness and hospitality I received from Tanzanians made me to change my mind," Mr Kioko said, adding:
"Though I am Kenyan but I think like Tanzanian." Precision Air started as a crop spraying company in 1993 and has since then become the regional airline serving over 17 destinations across the Central, Eastern and Southern Africa. Last December, the airline was listed at the Dar es Salaam Stock Exchange to change ownership and now 58 per cent shares are in the hands of Tanzanians, 41 per cent Kenya Airways (KQ) and 1.0 per cent by other nationals.
The current fleet consists of five 70-seater ATR 72-500, four 48-seater ATR 42, one ATR 42-600 and three Boeings 737. Plans are underway to expand the fleet further by acquiring more E-jets and ATRs, the company said.