Updated: Feb 19
Air Tanzania Company Limited (ATCL), flag carrier of the United Republic of Tanzania, has reportedly been granted three landing slots at London Gatwick Airport for the Winter 2019 season (October 2019 to March 2020). The flights slated for every Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday will be operated by the airline's recently acquired Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner.
However, no dates of the route's commencement have formally been announced by the airline, pending a European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) certification that would enable the carrier to fly over European airspace. This would complement the IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) certification acquired by ATCL in early August 2019. According to IATA, the IOSA Program is an internationally recognized means by which an airline's operational management and control systems are assessed to ensure compliance to global aviation safety standards.
Once operational, the route would cover 3 airports, with the service beginning at ATCL's hub at the Julius Nyerere International Airport (IATA: DAR) in Dar-es-Salaam, followed by a domestic hop to Kilimanjaro International Airport (IATA: JRO) located in the north of Tanzania, then on to London Gatwick Airport (IATA: LGW). The outbound journey from LGW is set to follow a similar format to JRO and, finally on to DAR.
The inclusion of JRO in the route map is perhaps aimed at serving the leisure traveller to and from London, given the abundance of tourist attractions in the region it serves. The airport even designates itself as "The Gateway to Africa's Wildlife Heritage", due to its relative proximity to Mount Kilimanjaro International Park, Tarangire National Park, Ngorongoro Conservation Area, and the world famous Serengeti National Park.
It's worth noting that the connection between Dar-es-Salaam and London is set to be the first in 6 years, following the March 2013 discontinuation of flights to London Heathrow from Dar-es-Salaam by British Airways. In a statement issued at the time, British Airways explained that the move was necessitated by the route's commercial unviability. Currently, the only connections Dar-es-Salaam has to Europe are operated by Swiss to Zurich Airport, and by KLM Royal Dutch Airlines to Amsterdam Schiphol Airport (AMS), albeit with a stop at JRO as well (AMS-JRO-DAR-AMS).
The proposed route to Europe is in line with the implementation of the airline's Corporate Strategic Plan (2017/2018-2020-2021), which is meant to enhance its intercontinental connectivity. This has already seen Mumbai added to the airline's route network, and with further plans to launch a route to Guangzhou via Bangkok at an unspecified date.
Regionally, the airline is reported to be in talks with African aviation giant Ethiopian Airlines, and RwandAir, towards codeshare and interlining opportunities between the carriers. This also comes hot in the heels of the announcement of the possible launch of intracontinental routes to Accra, Ghana and Lagos, Nigeria from Dar-es-Salaam.
Additionally, the official opening of the US$282 million Julius Nyerere International Airport Terminal 3 on August 1, 2019 by Tanzanian President John Magufuli will no doubt provide a much needed boost to ATCL's slow but steady international push. The facility is expected to serve up to 6 million international passengers per year.