Air Tanzania this week moved a step closer to launching direct flights to Britain after securing three landing slots at London’s Gatwick Airport.
The route from Dar es Salaam’s Julius Nyerere International Airport to Gatwick via Kilimanjaro International Airport in the north of the country will be the national carrier’s first foray into Europe.
The carrier plans to start with three flights a week — Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays — using its Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner.
Securing landing slots does not mean the airline can start plying the route immediately.
ATCL communications manager Josephat Kagirwa could not confirm the date of the launch of the London flights.
Air Tanzania has over the past year reintroduced flights to Harare, Bujumbura, Entebbe, Moroni and Johannesburg. It also recently started flying to Mumbai.
For the UK route, the airline still has to fulfil other requirements, including securing EU safety standards certification, which is proving complicated with the UK still trying to exit from the EU later this year. If Brexit happens before the certification is obtained, it means the approvals will have to come from two signatory bodies instead of one.
ATCL has fulfilled the IATA Operational Safety Audit, which is a mandatory requirement for any airline wishing to fly internationally and gain landing rights in other countries. The requirement is also necessary to back negotiations with other IATA airlines for interline and codeshare agreements.
Air Tanzania was one of 15 newcomer carriers — and the only one from Africa — to request landing slots at Gatwick, the ninth busiest airport in Europe, for the coming winter season.
Tanzania has missed out on direct flight connections to the UK since 2013 when British Airways abandoned the route between Dar es Salaam and Heathrow International Airport after around 40 years of service and despite enjoying high passenger numbers at the time.
Currently, Egypt Air flies Dar to London via Cairo, while KLM flies Dar-London via Kilimanjaro and Amsterdam.
“A direct air transport connection would present a great opportunity for stronger collaboration in promoting trade and tourism-related investment,” said the UK’s trade envoy to Tanzania Andrew Rosindell, who also chairs the UK Foreign Affairs Select Committee.
ATCL commercial director Patrick Ndekana said the airline’s aim is to “grow the European market” using the London flights as a link to other European and American markets.
The airline has also said it plans to introduce long-haul flights to Far East destinations such as Guangzhou and Bangkok.
A second Boeing 787-8 is expected to arrive early next year. Its current fleet comprises a Dreamliner, two Airbus A220-300 narrow bodies and three Bombardier Q400s. It is also awaiting delivery of two more A220-300s and another Bombadier Q400.