Air Tanzania will resume operations in the first week of November in an attempt to reclaim a market it once dominated as a national carrier, but now controlled by feisty local and international carriers.
Paulo Chizi, the acting managing director and chief executive officer of ATCL, said after being dormant for four years, the airline had regained its operating licenses.
Mr Chizi said the firm will fly domestic routes plying the Dar es Salaam, Tabora and Kigoma regions.
He also announced a capital expenditure plan to acquire 11 aircraft.
This plan is however predicated on the Tanzania government releasing $11.9 million that had been allocated in the national budget.
The firm has not been operating for four years after the Tanzania Civil Air Authority (TCAA) withdrew its operating license due to passenger safety concerns in December 2008.
Inspections by Tanzania’s aviation authorities revealed that ACTL at the time had little capacity to maintain its aircraft.
ATL was coming out of a messy break up with South African Airways and it was hobbled by mounting losses, defaults on debts and poor customer service.
“Air Tanzania was forced to do maintenance at South African Express Company which caused a great burden to the company as we were forced to send people from the country creating a high labour force cost,” said Mr. Chizi.
ATCL, which at one time was jokingly referred to as “Any Time Cancellation” because of its unpredictable scheduling, is planning a comeback in a tough time when it will be facing a major challenge from Precision Air which is in the middle of an initial public share offer.
ATCL is entering the domestic aviation market feeble and cash-strapped, while Precision is flying high, teeming with lots of money to finance its international expansion.
Rivals to ATCL such as Precision, Fly 540, Kenya Airways, and Coastal Aviation have largely benefited from the vacuum created by the national carrier in Tanzania’s fast growing aviation market.
In 2009, Precision Air carried 583,000 customers, and Coastal Aviation flew 141,995 people.
The restoration of the Air Operator Certificate by TCAA allows ATCL to fly beyond its national borders and sets the stage for pricing pressures on Tanzania’s domestic routes as well as in the wider East and Southern African markets.
However, for ATCL to compete, it must raise cash to both buy aircraft and invest in route development and customer acquisition.
Mr Chizi told The EastAfrican that in the next five years, the firm expects to have at least 11 aircraft operating.
“The company is now planning to deploy small capacity jet aircraft that will be operating locally, while medium-sized jets are expected to operate in the region before acquiring wide body aircraft for international operations,” said Mr Chizi.
He said that after operating for one month, they would expand their routes to Arusha, Zanzibar, Bukoba, Dodoma and Shinyanga.
The firm has signed a code share with Jetlink Express, a Kenyan firm that flies on the Nairobi, Dar es Salaam and Mwanza routes.