Tanzania Daily News (Dar es Salaam)

Tanzania: Battle in Tanzania's Skies Intensifies

THE arrival of the budget airline is seen as a blessing as the numbers of air passengers has increased. Local airlines claim that December was good month for their businesses, taking the cabin load factor as the benchmark of gauging businesses prospects.

Precision Air said its services are not shaken by the coming of the budget airline, but has rather "consolidated" its position at the poll as the leading carrier in the country. On other hand, FastJet also said their first month in business last December was "fantastic" which demonstrated the demand for budget airline in the country.

Some quarters in the society have it that the traditional carriers would suffer a huge passengers shift from the existing ones to the low cost airline but the travellers trend prove them wrong. Precision Air's Head of Revenue Management Elvis Ndomo said the coming of the new player did not interrupt their frequencies to any route, but instead achieved a load factor of over 80 per cent.

"We did not reduce frequencies in December," Mr Ndomo said "as a matter of fact our frequencies are intact while we achieved a good number of uplifted passengers, during that period." It is estimated that PW has over 300 departures a week from Dar es Salaam to 18 destinations in and outside the country, the majority being from Dar es Salaam to Kilimanjaro, Dar-Arusha, Dar- Mwanza and Dar-Nairobi.

Commenting on the December services, FastJet Chief Executive Officers Mr Ed Winter, said the budget carrier achieved a 78.9 per cent load factor by carrying almost 30,000 passengers. "This is a fantastic result for the first month of FastJet operations and clearly demonstrates the latent demand for low cost reliable air travel in Africa," Mr Winter said.

He added: "Press concerns over infrastructure have proved unfounded with no scheduled Fast- Jet flights cancelled and 99.6 per cent arriving within 15 minutes of schedule." Despite being outdated the Tanzania Civil Aviation Authority (TCAA) data shows that at the end of 2011 Precision Air had a lion market share of 58.8 per cent. The second on line was Coastal Travel controlling 21.8 per cent while Air Tanzania managed to bagged 0.4 per cent in 2011.

The chart, however is expected to change after the entry of FastJet late last year. The third and fourth were Zan Air and Auric Air controlling 4.2 and 2.0 per cent respectively while the remaining 12.8 per cent is shared with other airlines. According to Wolfganghthome's Blog , that captures air travel and hospitality service, Precision Air has a solid market base already and offers more flights to both Kilimanjaro and the Arusha Municipal air field, as well as Mwanza.

"A further benefit of (PW) having a sizeable turboprop fleet is the ability to fly to a number of destinations 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," the Blog indicates. Wolfganghthome's Blog added: "I think we shall see a strategic game of chess in the skies now.

FastJet will only be able to offer two or three, at best perhaps four departures between Dar and Kilimanjaro and Mwanza. "But with their fares they need almost full house on every flight to make the ends meet. Precision has the flexibility to use ATR's and offer a lot more departure times because they use smaller planes in Tanzania and the region". On other hand the blogger said Air Tanzania's fares right now are not much higher over those top fares by FastJet and who knows what government will scheme up to give the national airline competitive advantages.

TCAA Director General Mr Fadhili Manongi said one of the authority's responsibilities to create conducive economical environment to enable air players to offer competitive prices. "Fair competition at the end of the day benefit passengers-and this is our end goal," Mr Manongi said. The favourable environment includes maintaining the Dar es Salaam air safety to the highest standard according to the International Civil Authority Organisation benchmarks.

For instance, last year, the country experienced a total of 16 accidents and incidents with no casualties registered. "This makes our air space safer. Actually, we are ranked above average by ICAO that puts us at par with many first world airspaces, the likes of UK, US and Canada," Mr Manongi said.TCAA data shows that on average there is an increase of 4.5 per cent of total flights handled per year.

The Dar es Salaam centre leads with 2.5 per cent increase that is 206,334 flights handled. "True that is, but let's wait for that battle in the Tanzanian skies to commence and see how all this will unfold," the blogger Wolfganghthome's concluded.

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