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What Flightlink’s acquisition of bigger planes means

Flightlink Airline Managing Director, Munawer Dhirani cuts a ribbon to welcome the company’s new plane ATR from France at Julius Nyerere International Airport (JNIA) in Dar es Salaam on Sunday. Others are staffs from Flightlink and Tanzania Airports Authority (TAA). PHOTO|ERICKY BONIPHACE

Dar es Salaam. Flightlink’s acquisition of two new ATR 72-500 is set to stir up competition and eventually improve services in the country’s aviation industry, experts have said.

They believe the move would cut the costs of airline tickets.

On Sunday at 6.25pm, the airline, whose managing director and chairman is Mr Munawer Dhirani (Captain), received its second ATR72, just a few months after receiving its first same type of aircraft.

The France-manufactured airplane which was flown by Captain Kintu Newa from France to Dar es Salaam via Cairo (Egypt) and Djibouti, makes a total number of the airline’s aircraft to six.

Apart from the two ATR 72-500, which were welcomed by water salute upon their arrival, the airline has one Cessna Caravan, one Cessna 206, one Beechcraft 1900 and one Embraer 120.

Speaking at the Julius Nyerere International Airport (JNIA) terminal three immediately after the arrival of the new aircraft, the Flightlink chief operating officer, Mr Jameel Kassam, said an addition of two ATR 72 to their fleets is meant to capitalise on rising demand from a tourism sector that has been booming since the lifting of Covid-19 restrictions.

Tanzania’s tourism has almost recovered from the Covid-19 doldrums, thanks to last year’s decision by major economies to end their citizens’ travel restrictions and other initiatives by the government tourism stakeholders.

According to the Bank of Tanzania (BoT)’s latest figures, the number of tourists who visited the country reached 1.455 million last year.

This was only shy of 2019 numbers by a measly 4.7 percent.

Mr Kassam said their new ATR72 is expected to start operations this week after receiving approvals from the Tanzania Civil Aviation Authority (TCAA) and other relevant authorities.

“We are currently working with the authorities to get a greenlight for operations. We can start operations on Wednesday or Thursday,” he told The Citizen on Sunday.

Currently, the airline which is handled by a ground handler, Nas-Dar Airco, is flying between Dar es Salaam-Zanzibar-Serengeti, Zanzibar-Arusha-Zanzibar, Mombasa-Zanzibar, Mombasa-Dar and Mombasa-Arusha-Mombasa.

Now, according to Mr Kassam, the airline which is carrying 6,000 passengers on the monthly basis, is targeting the Dodoma and Nairobi markets.

“We expect to start flying to Dodoma on August 26 (next month),” he said.

Adding: “The Nairobi market, for its part, hopefully, we will start flying to its Wilson Airport earlier next year.”

Air Tanzania Company Limited (ATCL), which is the market leader by 53.1 percent according to the TCAA’s 2021/22 financial year figures, is also flying to the same destinations of Nairobi and Dodoma.

The same applies to Precision Air, which is the second market leader with the market shares of 22.9 percent.

The debut of Flightlink suggests that the airlines will now have to scramble for passengers flying to those destinations.

With the expansion plans of Flightlink, whose market shares stand at 2.6 percent, aviation stakeholders believe that it will increase its portion in the market.

“With the new ATR72, we expect to double the number of our customers that we are serving per month,” said Mr Kassam, banking his hopes on delivering quality services that would meet customers’ expectations.

An aviation expert, Mr Gaudence Temu, told The Citizen yesterday that the increase of the Flightlink’s number of aircraft and expansion of its operations, will increase competition and improve the quality of services.

“I am optimistic that everyone (airline) will now be busy seeking means to win customers’ hearts as customers have a wide room for choice,” said Mr Temu.

He went on to add: “Due to availability of several operators operating in the same destinations, there will be a possibility for the airlines to cut fares.”

He said Flightlink’s expansion plan is a good move and that it is an indication of the aviation industry’s growth, thanks to the government for creating a conducive business environment.

Nas-Dar Airco general manager Miguel Serra yesterday welcomed the airline’s expansion plan, saying it is a good sign of the recovery of the country’s aviation industry after Covid-19.

“ATCL, Auric Air and Flightlink have increased their fleet to cater the growth of travellers and tourists to Tanzania, as a result of the successful Royal Tour,” Mr Serra told The Citizen.

Source: The Citizen