Tanzania’s national airline: At death’s door


DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania (eTN) – Almost two weeks after Tanzania’s national flag carrier, Air Tanzania Company Limited (ATCL), was suspended from plying the skies, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) has officially banned the troubled airline from aviation business.

Despite the government’s crisis meeting held Wednesday to decide the fate of its loss-making airline, IATA has banned the air carrier from all aviation transactions and informed all travel agencies and other aviation companies to stop all transactions with ATCL pending further notice.

IATA issued a statement from its East African regional office in Nairobi (Kenya) this week to suspend and ban ATCL from entering the skies or making any aviation business with other airlines that are IATA members.

The IATA statement issued by the regional manager for East Africa, Mr. Hassim Pondor was circulated to all Billing and Settlement Plan (BSP) agents calling them to shun out ATCL activities.

This means that ATCL was automatically banned from BSP activities which are the selling, reporting and remitting procedures of IATA-accredited passenger sales agents, as well as improvement of financial control and cash flow for BSP affiliated airlines.

“We would like to inform you that IATA has suspended Air Tanzania with immediate effect. The airline has ceased operations due to the Tanzania Civil Aviation Authority withdrawing their air operation certificate,” IATA statement said in its statement.

Last week, the Tanzania Civil Aviation Authority (TCAA) suspended the national carrier’s operations and withdrew the airworthiness certificate after it was established that ATCL had failed to meet the new International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) standards.

IATA conducted a safety audit last year and issued a one-year ultimatum to ATCL to rectify the safety glitches and that period expired this November before a number of the same problems had yet to be solved.

IATA recommends practices as the benchmark for global safety management in airlines and has the mandate to do an Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) and give a certificate that is valid for two years.

IATA’s decision to ban ATCL from the skies hammered another nail on the most troubled African airline’s head and kept it off from 230 airlines, a move that is likely to lead to the airline shutting its operations for good.

A number of Tanzanian local newspapers carried several cartoons portraying ATCL’s death, some with a grave ready to accommodate the airline for eternity.

Tanzanian Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda held a crisis meeting with ATCL management and board of directors Wednesday this week to get the right hand explanation on the reasons of the airline’s suspension from skies.

The result of discussions between Prime Minister Pinda and ATCL executives have not been made public, but when contacted, the airline’s chief executive officer, David Mattaka, only said a statement will be issued later to tell the public the aftermath of the government-owned airline.

Prime Minister Pinda also inquired from the airline’s management whether it will be in a position to resume operations after suspension by TCAA and eventually IATA over safety concerns.

After three decades of loss-making, shame and poor performance, Tanzania’s troubled national airline once said last year that it will set up ambitious strategies to recuperate and compete with other African airlines to survive in volatile global aviation industry.

ATCL was established in 1977 after the collapse of the former East African Community (EAC) that led to disintegration of the East African Airways (EAA) and the formation of two other regional airlines registered as Kenya Airways and Uganda Airlines.