PRECISION Air Services (PW) on Wednesday made its maiden commercial flights to Mbeya's new Songwe International Airport. The airline however was compelled to reduce the number of passengers from 70 to 50 during the Dar es Salaam-Mbeya to provide space for fuel due to lack of jet fuel at Songwe airport here.
Songwe International Airport has been under construction for over a decade. Precision Air, which used to operate the Mbeya route between 1997 and 2000, has made a comeback to the economic hub of the southern highlands regions. The historical inauguration, graced by Director of Transport Services in the Ministry of Transport Peter Lupatu and also attended by Mbeya government representatives, corporate heads and aviation stakeholders, took place at Songwe airport, with Mbeya residents expressing joy over the inaugural flight.
The airline used its 70-seater ATR-72 aircraft to flag off its services in the new route, with an introductory flight schedule showing that it will fly to Mbeya four times a week--Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday--at an introductory fare of 249,000/- for a return ticket and 165,000/- for one way ticket.
"I call upon Mbeya residents to fully use this opportunity provided by Precision Air that has launched commercial flights to the region," said Mr Lupatu. Precision Air Board Chairman Michael Shirima asked the government to look for an investor to supply jet fuel at Songwe Airport to help the airlines flying to the airport reduce operational costs.
"My plea to the government is to ensure that aviation fuel is available here...this will greatly help to cut down operational costs incurred by airlines using the route. At the moment, we are forced to carry reserve fuel which increases load to the aircraft, forcing us to carry few passengers to leave room for the reserve fuel," said Mr Shirima.
The Precision Air founder asked the government to hasten installation of navigation aid at the airport because of its location and for the safety of the aircrafts and their passengers. He assured Mbeya residents that the airline will in future increase its flight frequencies to Songwe subject to an increase of passengers.
Acting Mbeya Regional Commissioner Norman Sigala on his welcoming remarks said he was happy with Precision Air's decision to fly to Mbeya because it will reduce transport challenges that Mbeya residents face. "The inauguration we are witnessing today is a blessing to Mbeya region and their neighbour...Precision Air has flagged commercial flights to this region; you will see many other airlines coming soon," he said.
Songwe becomes the 18th destination for Precision Air, which has grown from a very humble background of starting as a crop spraying company with a single aircraft in 1987 to the lone Tanzanian airline flying regionally.