More airlines have expressed interest to operate domestic flights in Tanzania with four, including two newcomers, applying for the provision of scheduled passenger services in what is proving to be the new field for cutthroat competition.
But in a humorous twist, the Tanzania Civil Aviation Authority (TCAA) Director General, Mr Fadhili Manongi, said on Tuesday that “the sky was the limit” as the agency met with stakeholders to review 17 applications from companies that want to provide air transport services in Tanzania.
“We are not considering to limit the number of licences at this stage as many operators are not stable (while) others are still small to bring the required competition,” Mr Manongi said in response to whether they did not think the skies were getting rather crowded.
Seeking to operate scheduled passenger services are newcomers Dar es Salaam’s based Air Africa International and Zanzibar’s Zan Aviation At Work.
The other two were for renewal of licences from Air Zara and Auric Air. The TCAA chief said they encouraged many operators in the market in order to bring competition in the sky, lower tariffs and increase the quality of services provided.
Mr Manongi described the Tanzanian market as huge “with many areas yet to be reached.” The DG gave the example of Dar es Salaam to Mwanza sector which experienced a drop in fares after a second operator started plying the route.
The same thing was now observed about the flights to Kigoma, which was largely a shunned destination in the past. “Today Mwanza is a different story. We want to increase competition to lower fares,” Mr Manongi said.
He said it would take an average three months for a serious applicant to obtain a licence after on Tuesday’s public meeting.
“The harder stage is to obtain an air operating certificate, as you have to convince the regulator on safety and security (of equipment, passengers and environment),” the DG said.
Come next January, the Tanzania sky will have about seven big capacity airlines operating in major towns and cities of Dar es Salaam, Arusha, Mwanza, Kigoma, Mtwara, Kilimanjaro, Kagera, Shinyanga and Tabora.
The big operators are led by Precision Air, which controls over 60 per cent of the market share.
Others are Fly540, state owned Air Tanzania Company Limited (ATCL), which is struggling to make a comeback after years of monopoly and crippling financial doldrums, Air Zara also bidding for a comeback and Mwanza based Auric Air.
Other medium airlines that are cutting a bigger slice of the market share include, Coastal Air, FightLink, Regional Air, Nomad Aviation and Safari Link.
Air Africa is the airline to watch as it plans to fly the domestic and regional routes expected to be operated also by Precision Air, Fly540 and Air Tanzania.
At the thirteen airports where TCAA provides air traffic control services, the total aircraft movements increased by 4.5 per cent to 148,609 flights in 2008/09 compared with 142,113 in 2007/08.