Air Tanzania Limited (ATCL) Thursday dismissed reports suggesting that the national carrier could be making losses on its regional routes.
The CEO of the airline, Mr Ladislaus Matindi, told The Citizen that the fears raised on social media over low numbers of passengers were unfounded.
A debate ensued on social media on Monday after a photo was posted on Twitter by a person who claimed to have been a passenger on TC 214 Dar es Salaam/Kilimanjaro/Entebbe flight, with a caption claiming that the plane had only six passengers and six crew members.
On a full flight, a Bombardier Q400 aircraft can carry up to 90 passengers.
“It is not about the ability to manage routes but poor understanding of the air transport from stakeholders as they have high expectations on ATCL performance,” Mr Matindi told The Citizen.
Some of those who contributed in the debate questioned the national carrier’s ability to profitably operate the regional routes, including the Dar es Salaam/Kilimanjaro/Entebbe route, which the aircraft was operating.
“This is crazy if every country wants to have its own national airline. The whole EAC should just dissolve their airlines and be absorbed by the Ethiopian Airlines,” @RKI2011 tweeted.
“This is when you invest in a business without having a proper business plan,” another twitter user @MsTayanah commented.
“When we were leaving Dar es Salaam, it was like 90 per cent full; when we stopped in Kilimanjaro, only four passengers remained on board, and later two boarded going to Entebbe,” said another person who said he was a passenger on the same flight, but only talked to The Citizen on condition of anonymity.
However, quelling profitability fears, the ATCL boss sounded optimistic.
“Remember, we inaugurated the route in August this year. Build-up of passengers on a new route is normal in air transport when entering new market. In fact, we have been performing very well and picking up day after day.”
“The photo shows a flight from Kilimanjaro to Entebbe being part of the Dar to Entebbe route. We had a full flight from Dar to Kilimanjaro and few passengers to Entebbe,” he added.
He said ATCL gets more passengers on Dar/Kilimanjaro/Entebbe on weekends.
“In fact, we have 37 passengers today out of Entebbe and 37 passengers to Entebbe,” he revealed.