December 29, 2018 -Air Tanzania (ATC) continued on its decade long path to revival with the delivery last week of the first of two, Airbus A220 aircraft. A sister airframe is expected in January 2019.
The Tanzanian flag carrier has been trying to regroup since 2008 but its network has been mainly domestic. In addition to about a dozen domestic destinations, ATC has recently added, Bujumbura, Entebbe, Comoros and Mumbai to its destinations. Chief executive Ladislaus Matindi says that the A220 is a growth aircraft that will be used to open new routes within Africa.
“With the addition of the A220 in our fleet we are confident that we will expand our footprint in the growing African markets and beyond, as we unlock additional routes and regain our position as a key player in the African air transport market,” he said during ceremonies to receive the aircraft from the manufacturer last week.
Executives from the Tanzania Government Flight Agency and Air Tanzania received the aircraft from the manufacturer’s final assembly line in Mirabel, Canada on December 21, with the ferry flight touching down in Dar e salaam on December 23. The delivery brought Tanzania’s active fleet to six aircraft comprising four propeller driven Bombardier Dash -8’s, a single Boeing 787 Dreamliner and now the A220.
With a flying range just over 5000 kilometres, the A220 will bring many points in central and West Africa within range of Air Tanzania’s Dar es Salaam base, while also giving the carrier a low risk option to venture into the Middle East or grow frequency on existing domestic and international routes. Tito Kasambala, the Acting CEO of the Tanzanian Government Flight Agency (TGFA) hinted on that possibility.
“The A220 unrivalled passenger comfort combined with its remarkable performance and economics will be an excellent asset to further develop Air Tanzania’s network,” he said.
The latest addition brought ATC’s active fleet to six aircraft and makes it the first airline in Africa and fifth globally to operate the Airbus A220, the western world’s only all new single aisle jet design in more than a decade. While Airbus, Boeing and Embraer have recently introduced new products, these have been derivatives of existing airframes on which new engines have been mounted.
ATC now expects another two aircraft, one Dash-8-Q400 and an additional A 220. While the A220 comes in two versions, ATC opted for the bigger A220-300 which seats 130-150 passengers. ATC’s aircraft have been configured to two classes which means they feature the lower seat count.
The arrival has more than quadrupled ATC’s available seat capacity from just 75,000 in 2017 to 350,000 by December 2018. With the exception of a single 21 year old Dash-8-300 that was delivered on 2008, Air Tanzania now has the youngest fleet in the region with five of its existing aircraft averaging less than two years.
Ordered in December 2016 when it was still designated as the CS -300 under Canadian manufacturer Bombardier’s product portfolio, the C-Series program was transferred to Airbus on July 1, this year in a partnership that saw it re-designated as the A220.
The delivery milestone is significant for both Airbus and Air Tanzania as it makes ATC the launch operator for the type in Africa while it also gives Airbus an entry point into a market it has been trying to wrest from rival Boeing’s grasp for decades. With Tanzania in the loop, Airbus now has a presence all the way from Ethiopia, Rwanda and Uganda.
Uganda Airlines has committed to the Airbus A330-800 while Rwandair which already operates two baselines A330’s has also ordered two A330 -900’s. Ethiopian has a dozen A350’s in operation and thirteen pending deliveries.
Philippe Balducchi, the CEO of the A220 partnership said of the ATC delivery: “After Europe, Asia and America, we are proud to see the A220 fly now also on the African continent and in Air Tanzania’s livery. With over 240 Airbus aircraft flying in Africa and a large network of flight service offices in the region, we are ready to contribute to the airline’s success.”