Aviation experts yesterday lauded the Tanzanian government’s plans to rescue Air Tanzania Company Limited (ATCL) by providing it with a relief package amid its debt and loss burdens.
The national carrier recorded a cumulative loss of Sh153.542 billion during the past five financial years, according to the Controller and Auditor General (CAG) report for the 2019/20 financial year which was released at the end of March.
Addressing Parliament on Thursday, President Samia Suluhu Hassan said the government would borrow a leaf from other countries so as to efficiently provide debt, charges and tax relief to ATCL.
An aviation expert with an experience of about 46 years, John Njawa, said the package relief to ATCL will remove the debt burden in the short term.
But this entirely, he said, will depend on the company cost structure, business and the market environment, management strategies and the purchasing power of Tanzanians.
It will also depend on the government policies, office workers using the airline, and passports becoming accessible to anybody to increase freedom of movements for Tanzanians.
“This is still the nation’s asset, the government or the people must consider giving the airline seed money,” suggested Mr Njawa.
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Asked on whether the package relief to ATCL alone would create unfair competition or not, he responded: “without a doubt.” But, he said, as long as ATCL is still a national asset, then the shareholders have the right to provide all the incentives to improve its performance.
The founder and current chairman of Precision Air, Michael Shirima, is optimistic about the government extending the relief package to other industry’s players as well.
“We feel the government thinking is broader than confining the relief to ATCL only,” he exuded his optimism in an exclusive interview with The Citizen recently.
“Provided that the tax relief is extended to the whole sector which is suffering the same constraints (Covid-19) we have petitioned for a long time without success, otherwise we face the same fate as ATCL experienced.”
Airlines are on record as crying foul over numerous taxes and charges, including passenger service charges, landing fee, parking fee, departure taxes and security fee.
Going by the Tanzania Airports Authority (TAA) figures, passenger service charge stands at Sh10,000 and US$40 for domestic and international flights respectively.
The landing charge per 1,000 Kg aircraft at Dar es Salaam, Kilimanjaro, Zanzibar and Pemba airports are US$5.
Parking charges for aircraft of up to 20,000 kilos stand at Sh1,000 and US$6 per 12 hours for airlines registered in Tanzania and foreign ones respectively.
Departure taxes for domestic and international travellers are Sh13,000 and US$49 in that order.
Security fee stands at Sh5,000 and US$5 on local and international passenger tickets respectively.