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Region’s airlines up competition with new routes

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Air Tanzania will in the next two weeks start flights to Lusaka, Zambia, and Harare. It also plans to launch long-haul flights to China and India at the end of March.

Air Tanzania Company Ltd chief executive officer Ladislaus Matindi said that with six aircraft on its fleet, international flights have only been delayed by the challenges of IATA membership — which have since been finalised — and getting onto the GDS (global distribution system), which the airline hopes to finalise soon.

The company has two Airbus planes and a Boeing 787 Dreamliner, which are to be deployed on routes to China and India, Mr Matindi said.

Connecting to the GDS will help the airline to embark on intercontinental routes as the system will now allow it access to the international reservations network.

When the process is completed, the airline can start flying to China and India as of next month.

“We have now been able to connect to three GDS firms, including Travel Port, a European one and a Chinese one. We are also in the final stages of agreements with Amadeus and Sabre,” Mr Matindi said.

Air Tanzania’s entry into Southern Africa is boosted by its growing fleet, with two Airbus A220s received in just over a month.

It is expecting its second Dreamliner later in the year, which it plans to deploy on the India and China routes. But it says it will also be vying for a share of the African market.

“We are also looking at flying to Nairobi and the Democratic Republic of Congo before the year ends, while remaining on course to introduce flights to London, the UAE and Oman over the next two years,” Mr Matindi added.

Kenya Airways and RwandAir are eyeing the Tel Aviv route from their respective Nairobi and Kigali bases.

The Kenyan carrier is also negotiating with Sudan for overflight rights after Khartoum rescinded its earlier decision to allow KQ flights en route to Israel to overfly its airspace.

Kenya Airways was scheduled to start weekly flights to Tel Aviv next month, but the plan is now on hold.

“Our plans to have a flight to Israel remain on course. We will embark on it as soon as the standoff is settled between Kenya and Sudan,” said KQ chairman Michael Joseph.

KQ also plans to launch routes to Rome and Geneva starting June, targeting travellers visiting these European destinations for leisure and business.

The airline says it will deploy its 787 Dreamliner four times a week to cover the new routes, which are dominated by their national airlines such as Swissair, which also flies to East Africa.

“Rome with its status of a ‘global city’ is also rich in history and culture, making it one of the top tourist destinations in the world, while Geneva hosts the highest number of international organisations in the world, making it a global hub for diplomacy,” said KQ chief executive Sebastian Mikosz.

RwandAir plans to also fly to Tel Aviv in the coming months, having signed a Bilateral Aviation Safety Agreement as part of the Open Skies aviation reform.

The Kigali-based carrier, which is planning to introduce the Bombardier Q400 — positioned to exclusively serve intra-African routes — and lease two A330-900Neos and two 737 Max 8s, is also eyeing the US and Chinese market via Guangzhou

“We have signed a Bilateral Aviation Safety Agreement with Israel and we plan to fly there soon. I cannot specify the time but it will be this year,” RwandAir chief executive officer Yvonne Makolo said.

The continent’s largest carrier Ethiopian Airlines, has also been on a route expansion spree, recently launching direct connections to Russia, the first carrier on the continent to do so.

It also launched a frequency to Manchester in the UK, in December, its second destination outside of London.

“The air connectivity Ethiopian provides to link Africa and Russia will go a long way towards facilitating and bolstering multifaceted relations between the two regions. Our direct flights will also promote Ethiopian and other African tourist attractions to the Russian market. Russia has become the final BRICS country in our ever growing global network,” said chief executive officer Tewolde Gebremariam.

Last week, ET announced that it will introduce three-times-a-week flights to John F Kennedy International Airport in New York, adding to its flights to the city’s Newark International Airport.

The Ethiopian flag carrier said that it was restructuring its network, opening new destinations, adding frequencies and shifting gateways as it seeks to offer passengers travelling between Africa and the US the best possible connectivity and the shortest routes.

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