East African regional airlines battle to take over the African skies

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East  African regional airlines are now fighting a winning and losing battle over the African skies which Kenya Airways, Ethiopian Airlines and South African Airways have been commanding for decades in the past.

Competition over the African skies has been tough after several countries announced their plans to revive their once defunct airlines by the end of 2019, a situation which prompted the three leading air carriers to set up strategies that would make them to remain cruising over the African clear skies.

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Like a “New wine in Old bottle”, Tanzanian government bought six new planes for the snailing Air Tanzania Company Limited (ATCL), the Tanzania’s national air carrier which has been operating with losses since its establishment in 1977 after the breakup of the East African Airways (EAA) once owned by the three East African states of Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda.

Tanzanian President  John Magufuli had commanded the entire exercise to buy six modern aircraft then handing over the new planes to ATCL under condition that the airline perform with excellence through active business and competition to beat the well established airlines in Africa also those operating  in Tanzania from other continents.

Inaugurating the arrival of a new Airbus A220-300 that arrived from its manufacturer in Canada last week, the Tanzanian president told the ATCL management to ensure that the national flag carrier does not turn into a burden to tax payers.

The President also promised that the government will purchase two more, modern aircraft before the end of this year and January next year in its campaign to revamp the national flag carrier.

The Tanzania’s national airline has been operating at a snail’s pace over the African skies, failing to catch with other competitive and efficient foreign airlines including Kenya Airways, Ethiopian Airlines and South African Airways which have captured the lucrative tourist business in this African nation.

After acquiring the new equipment, Tanzania’s snailing airline is now looking to start flights to Zambia, Zimbabwe and South Africa and DR Congo.

Sending shock waves to other regional airlines, the other Eastern African states are now looking to strengthening their national flag carriers by the end of 2019, bringing heightened competition in the region’s aviation industry as airlines jostle for customers.

Kenya Airways which has had near monopoly on these routes amid complaints over exorbitant charges, is as well, looking to strengthening its intercontinental, long-haul flights to the United States, Europe, Asia and West Africa.

Kenya Airways operates at least four daily flights from Nairobi to Dar es Salaam, five daily flights to Entebbe in Uganda, four daily flights to Lusaka in Zambia and at least one daily flight to the tourist town of Livingstone in Zambia also two other cities in Zambia

Ethiopian Airlines is also seeking to set up hubs in southern, central and the Horn of Africa. The Addis Ababa based airline has been reviving some of the stalled national carriers, mainly in the southern Africa region where it operates a substantial number of flights.

Ethiopian Airlines has signed a shareholding agreement with Zambia’s main development agency to re-launch the southern African country’s flag carrier at an initial cost of US$30 million which will see the Horn of Africa leading airline acquire 45 per cent stake in Zambia Airways, which is set to be re-launched after more than two decades on ground.

Under the new pact signed last year, the Zambian government will be the majority shareholder with a 55 per cent stake, with Ethiopian Airlines taking the rest 45 percent stake. The Airlines is also seeking to set up hubs in Southern, Central and the Horn of Africa.

In May last year, Ethiopian Airlines said it was in talks with Chad, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea and Guinea to set up carriers through joint ventures. It also aimed to create a new airline in Mozambique that it will fully own.

After many false starts, President Yoweri Museveni has intervened on the revival of the Uganda national carrier, Uganda Airlines,  now slated to be operational by June this year after a decade-long on ground. Uganda is one of the profitable routes for Kenya Airways.