The battle over the East African skies is heading to a notch higher as Air Tanzania prepares to launch regional and international flights to take on established regional airlines.
Air Tanzania Company Limited (ATCL), the national flag carrier, has been boosted by the recent arrival of two Airbus A220- 300 aircraft to become the first African carrier to take delivery of the Airbus A220 aircraft, the newest addition to the Airbus family of commercial aircraft.
The latest arrival in ATCL fleet has brought to six the number of aircraft bought by the government for the state-owned airline in a business turnaround plan that is expected to help the carrier compete with established airlines in the lucrative domestic and regional market.
The national airline is now set to reclaim its share in the market as it expanded its domestic flights being served by three Bombardier Dash 8 Q400 and one Q300 aircraft and venture into regional routes.
ATCL has begun direct flights to Entebbe in Uganda and Bujumbura in Burundi to offer an attractive alternative to regional air travellers who had to endure going through time-consuming and costly connecting options. It plans to fly to Lusaka, Harare and Johannesburg from next month and it is preparing for international routes to Mumbai, Guangzhou and Bangkok, between February and June.
"With the addition of the A220 in our fleet, we are confident that we will expand our footprint in the growing African markets and beyond, as we unlock additional routes and regain our position as a key player in the African air transport market," Ladislaus Matindi, CEO of Air Tanzania Company Limited was quoted by the media as saying.
After losing a significant market share when it was struggling in the abyss of underinvestment and mismanagement the airline has just got a new lease of life with the addition of the two A220 jets and the renewal of the turboprop fleet which are complemented by the arrival last July of a Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner.
The state-owned airline is steadily regaining its relevance in the domestic market after enhancing competition with privately owned Precision Air and another carrier, low-cost Fastjet which suspended domestic flights within the country last month.
The market share rose from 2.5 per cent in 2016 to a remarkable 42.6 per cent at the end of 2017 with only two aircraft in operation according to Commercial and Business Development Director, Paul Ndekana in an interview with the 'Daily News.'
ATCL revenue increased to 4.5bn/- per month for the year ending 2017 from 700m/- it was collecting previously and reduced losses from 14.2bn/- from 2016 to 4.3bn/- in 2017, according its Sales and Distribution Manager Edward Nkwabi who was speaking in a meeting with travel agencies.
The battle is now extended to the regional market dominated by Kenya Airways, Ethiopian Airlines and South African Airways for more than a decade and lately admitted RwandAir, the flag carrier airline of Rwanda, which operates domestic and international services to East Africa, Central Africa, West Africa, Southern Africa, Europe the Middle East and Asia.
The ATCL revival means 'more turbulence' in the regional skies in terms of heightened competition in the region's aviation industry as airlines will be jostling for customers. This has made regional airlines go back to the drawing table to strategise.
Kenya Airways launched direct flight to the United States in October in what has been described as an important milestone for a carrier bedevilled by years of losses, large debts, and labour strikes.
The Kenyan airline joined a small number of African carriers-including Ethiopian Airlines, South African Airways, Royal Air Maroc, and Cabo Verde Airlines-offering direct flights from Africa to the US.
Ethiopian Airlines, Africa largest and most profitable, is pursuing expansion in Africa by adopting cross-border strategies through joint-venture arrangements. It announced plans to launch an airline in Mozambique and re-launched Zambia's flag carrier.
It also established a new airline in Chad to cover West and Central Africa and resumed flights to Somalia after a 41-year hiatus.
And in East African Community (EAC) region, Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni has vowed to revive Uganda's defunct national carrier to share in the region's growing aviation business and invigorate its services sector.
Regional giants Kenya Airways, Ethiopian Airlines and South African Airways dominate Uganda's air travel business.