(eTN) – Recent public utterances by Swissport representatives about the competition over ground-handling contracts met with stiff resistance by other stakeholders. Swissport holds a near monopoly at Dar es Salaam’s Julius Nyerere International Airport and was alleged to have maneuvered behind the scenes, using their influence, to prevent Precision Air from attaining self-handling status. This, nevertheless, was granted in the end, leaving Swissport to ponder the wisdom of their strategy, but the fallout of losing the Precision Air handling did leave a deep hole in their statistics and pockets.
Their demands, however, that the Tanzanian government and the Tanzania Airport Authority reconsider the ongoing liberalization process of permitting more competition for ground handling, met with immediate retaliatory statements from those companies Swissport wants to keep away from their traditional “eating grounds.”
Competitors were up in arms about this blatant attempt to restore and retain a monopoly, which one regular aviation source in Arusha commented on: “Swissport’s handling charges were amongst the highest in the region before competition was allowed. Like the charges at Kilimanjaro International Airport, where KADC has a monopoly, this has stifled aviation growth. Trying [to] influence peddling to keep Precision Air from handling their own flights is also not right but at least those guys succeeded and now Swissport is crying wolf.
“Aviation in Tanzania needs internal liberalization, and I am not saying let a dozen companies handle flights, but at least permit two competitors to Swissport, so that quality and price can be the factor on which we decide who gets our business. I also agree with your question that many bureaucrats in our country are still stuck in the command economy era as you put it, and they need to change also. Today is different from the 70s, then the economy failed Tanzania, and we cannot risk the same again.
“Nairobi has many handling companies, Entebbe has two, well one and a half sort of, and ground-handling charges are now a big part of airline expenses besides the fuel and the regulatory charges for landing, parking, and navigation. It is right airlines stand up and demand from government and the TAA to deny the Swissport request.”
Concludes this correspondent that the aviation sector’s handling by the Tanzanian government and its relevant authorities remains nebulous at best and requires a strategic re-think if the sector is to live up to its full potential.