Air Tanzania Company Ltd has announced the indefinite suspension of its flights to Johannesburg, South Africa hardly four months since they were relaunched amid much fanfare in June.
In a letter to all travel agents dated October 3, and which The EastAfrican has seen, ATCL managing director Ladislaus Matindi said they regret “to inform you that, effectively from October 7, 2019 and onwards, all tickets sold for route Dar-JNB-Dar shall be refunded and route suspended until further notice.’’
The airline said all tickets for the Dar-J’burg-Dar route already sold to passengers but still unused would be refunded.
Matindi directed that questions about the route suspension be forwarded to Works, Transport and Communication Minister Isaack Kamwelwe.
In September, Mr Kamwelwe issued a statement hinting at the suspension “for security reasons.”
At the time an ATCL Airbus A220 had just been released after being detained for weeks by a South African court at Johannesburg’s OR Tambo Airport over a private individual’s debt claim against the Tanzanian government.
South Africa was also at the time going through a period of exacerbated xenophobic attacks on foreigners living and working in the country.
Mr Matindi told The EastAfrican on October 9 that the airline is finalising plans to ply the Far East routes to China and Thailand by year-end.
Mr Matindi said ATCL’s grand expansion strategy will also include the launch of regular flights to Lubumbashi, Lilongwe, Lagos, Accra and London.
The national carrier is making these potential routes a priority so as to firstly promote tourism in the country and second, to compete with other established airlines in the aviation industry, he said.
Eight new planes have been purchased in the past three years, with six of these already delivered and two more set for delivery by 2021. The airline had only one working plane before President John Magufuli launched the revival plan in 2016.
The government budgeted Tsh495.6 billion ($216 million) for aircraft purchases in financial year 2018/19.