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The effects of the drastic reduction of Kenya Airways (KQ) flights into Tanzania have begun to bite

KENYA-AIRWAYS-eldoretThe effects of the drastic reduction of Kenya Airways (KQ) flights into the country have begun tob bite, with the business community in particular questioning the timing and expected outcome of the move.

As Transport Minister Samuel Sitta told The Citizen yesterday in Dodoma that the reduction of the flights from 42 to 14 every week was a legal matter, critics argued that the government did not consider the economic consequences of the action.  ?We were just doing them (KQ) a favour but now TCAA (Tanzania Civil Aviation Authority) has acted in accordance with the Bilateral Air Services Agreement,? said Mr Sitta, who is the Acting Leader of Government Business in Parliament.

The Citizen established that Kenya Airways offices in Dar were not issuing any new travel tickets as all its flights were full for the next three weeks. Sources said the airline had called clients who had prior bookings to reschedule their flights.

There were fears that the high demand for travel and available seats would likely push ticket prices up to $1,000 from the current average of $700 on the Dar es Salaam-Nairobi route, which is dominated by Kenya Airways. 

Tourism operators in Zanzibar yesterday expressed shock over the ban, with the Zanzibar Association of Tourism Investors (Zati) chairman, Mr Omar Shaaban, accusing TCAA of overlooking Zanzibar?s interests.

Mr Shaaban said the association was already reviewing tourist packages and products that had already been arranged based on the old flight schedules. He added: ?The aviation industry does not stand alone. It involves many sectors like tourism, the hotel business, horticulture and other related activities, and this decision is affecting all these. The government should have involved us so we could take measures to mitigate the knock-down effect on our businesses.?

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Former Zati Chairman Abdul Samad Said lamented that the KQ ban would spell doom for Zanzibar?s economy. ?This is a decision that will add to the Union problems because our mainland colleagues did not care to organise how tourists coming to Zanzibar would be catered for now,? he said, noting that the Kenyan airline brought in more than 80 per cent of visitors to Zanzibar.

According to Mr Said, the decision was driven by business interests to protect Fastjet and settle political scores with Kenya. ?In the absence of a national carrier, this smacks of a desperate and self-defeatist move.?    

Mr Ali Mufuruki,  Chairman and CEO of Infotech Investment Group, also questioned the timing and blamed the monopoly enjoyed by KQ in Tanzania and Uganda on the failure of the two governments to sustain their own national airlines. Mr Mufuruki added: ?It is ironic that the government is taking that kind of drastic action on behalf of a foreign-owned airline (Fastjet) but refused to intervene when Air Tanzania needed it most. It is too little too late and a bit misguided too.?

Other players felt that international carriers would not automatically fly directly to Tanzania after the move because of prohibitive landing fees. ?Many carriers skipped Tanzania not because we don?t have good hotels and tourist attractions but due to the high landing fees at our airports,? travel publisher Victor Mollel told The Citizen. ?I consider this a wrong decision. The implications for the tourism industry will be big.?

The measure was another indication that member states of the East African Community (EAC) have deep-rooted differences despite constant pledges of co-operation. ?When they meet, they shake hands and smile, but inside them they have deep-rooted animosity,? Mr Mollel said, urging  the two countries to sort out the issue for the benefit of the air travel industry.

Mr Shoo Alibless Shoo, the CEO of the Arusha-based Sky Group, said the move  would distort the economy. ?Tanzania has no national airline. That in itself is a shame. Why then should we ban other carriers from bringing visitors to our country?? he asked.

 

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