TCAA, ATCL Should Reflect What The Nation Aims; We Move Forward in Development, Not Conflict

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The Tanzania Civil Aviation Authority (TCAA) letter to Kenyan Airways posted on Milliard Ayo’s Instagram has opened our eyes to the fact that Air Tanzania Company Limited’s (ATCL) cargo business plan is shambolic and relies on extortion and blackmail to achieve her corporate objectives. The TCAA letter banned Kenyan Airways passenger flights from operating in Tanzania, effective 22nd January 2024. This article chronicles the events behind this air travel sanction and considers why ATCL stated prompted her controversial ban.

See the official public notice from the Tanzania Civil Aviation Authority (TCAA)

TCAA says Kenyan Airways violated section 4 of the Chicago Convention 1944, drastically banning passenger flights from Nairobi to Dar-es-Salaam. To evaluate whether TCAA acted adequately, we need to reproduce Section 4 of the Chicago Convention of 1944, which states as follows:

“Freedom 4th Description Right to fly from a foreign country to one’s own” End of quotation.

All sections 9 in the Chicago convention aimed to enhance freedom of flight across borders without impediments, as the one TCAA has imposed on Kenyan Airways.

Fortunately, on the news posted on Daily News, Tanzania and Kenya have agreed that the recently imposed restrictions on air travel should not stand. According to Tanzania’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and East African Cooperation, January Makamba’s post on X (formerly Twitter), the two East African economic powerhouses have resolved the matter using the relevant authorities.

“I spoke to my Kenyan colleague @MusaliaMudavadi. We agree that restrictions on air travel between our countries and from either of our countries to a third country shouldn’t stand. With the relevant authorities, we’ve resolved to settle this issue, per existing agreements, within 3 days,” Mr. Makamba posted.

READ: Tanzania, Kenya resolve air travel restrictions dispute.

What TCAA had done was violate the spirit and letter of the Chicago convention that aimed to dissolve borders and sovereignty for air travel. They did not say who the complainant was or whether Kenyan Airways was granted a hearing. From that letter, TCAA acted without affording Kenyan Airways a right to be heard, amounting to a wanton abuse of public office.

TCAA wrongly presumed, given Kenyan weekly flights in Tanzania, estimated at 33 per week or about 3 – 4 daily or more, has thrust on her lap leverage to twist Kenyan Airways to her inimical inclinations. ATCL has spent a massive chunk of cash to purchase cargo planes. From this conflict of interest unfolding, it looks like the ATCL is pressuring the TCAA to force Kenyan Airways to dole out the domestic aspect of the cargo business or face the wrath of the TCAA under the dubious interpretation of section 4 of the Chicago convention.

There could be many reasons why Kenyan Airways is reluctant to hand over its cargo business to ATCL. One reason could be customer trust. Customer trust is earned and cannot be surrendered to the ATCL under the guise that a refusal of Kenyan Airways to hand over her juicy cargo business might provoke the wrath of the TCAA.

Customer trust is not transferable, and TCAA should have known better that she was introducing incalculable risks. ATCL, a cargo business rival of Kenyan Airways, may have reason to steal business or sabotage it at the latter’s costs without an apparent compensation pact.

Nobody knows about insurance issues, for instance, when accidents happen, damage to goods and services or misplaced, stolen or lost cargo. Seriously, the TCAA ban is oblivious to the risks it has imposed on Kenya Airways. Kenya Airways will lose control of cargo operations to the ATCL’s takes over while she is contract-bound to her clients. Kenya Airways will be responsible for the inefficiencies of the ATCL and will be required to compensate its clients.

ATCL may refuse to incur costs to refund and shoulder her wrongdoing. The TCAA would be a perpetrator and an instigator of the altercation in the civil aviation industry, contrary to her creation in the first place. A regulator worthy of her name must be impartial and forward-looking and not be a captive of shielding an inefficient local operator against stiff competition from foreign rivals. Insurers offer different customer services based on history, risks and affordability.

Kenya Airways poses less risks compared to the ATCL. Insurers will likely charge more for the ATCL than for the Kenyan Airways. Why should Kenyan Airways beef up cash to support the struggling ATCL?

Another issue is why the ATCL does not search for her customers and desists from throwing a spanner in the works of Kenyan Airways. When the ATCL was dabbling into heavy-duty cargo planes, was it angling to steal Kenyan Airways customers by blackmail and extortion? Is ATCL too dumb, lazy, or both to find her customers?

What both the TCAA and ATCL fail to grasp is that deploying xenophobia as a business tool is not sustainable. Whatever you afflict your neighbour, she too can replicate your deeds in reprisal and will not constrain himself to the civil aviation dispute but will assail you where it hurts most. Is this the treacherous path the TCAA and the ATCL want to embark on to balance their accounting books?

We now witness that ATCL has no workable plan to justify colossal amounts of money squandered in cargo planes and is attempting to hijack years of investment to win cargo customers. Both the TCAA and ATCL are conducting themselves like mafioso gangs contrary to the norms, practices, and aspirations of the public entities of which they are.

We are aware both ministers of foreign dockets in Kenya and Tanzania have swiftly acted to reassure East African civil aviation. This is recommendable. Immediate easing of regional tensions deserves plaudits. However, we were concerned that the Ministry of Transport was silent, implying they were behind this illegal sabotage of the East African spirit of cooperation and what section 4 of the Chicago convention stands for.

ATCL should look for new markets instead of forcing them to steal her neighbour’s toil; with a bit of imagination and determination, ATCL ought to have innovative strategies to nail lucrative cargo business everywhere, not only limiting herself to what her neighbouring rivals are doing.

Of serious note, both the TCAA and the ATCL should learn to respect clients’ choices. Clients have a right to choose an airline they trust, and that airline tends to have a business model that suits their needs. You cannot force customers to switch Airlines to cover your glaring shortcomings.

It was unacceptable yesterday, nor will it be tolerated today or tomorrow for a regulator to create or patch up protectionist policies. Our experience with protectionism is egregious, to put it mildly. We need not traverse that path again as if past lessons have taught us nothing.

Kenyan Airways has a reputation for protecting and defending but playing politics as if ATCL is a monopoly of Tanzania Air routes will, in the long run, kiĺl the ATCL. ATCL need competition, not protection from the civil aviation regulator. TCAA and ATCL must understand beyond a reasonable doubt that clients, not corporations, matter. If you switch positions and make clients subservient to corporate interests, you will be shipped out before you know it.

We ask that both TCAA and ATCL comply with the rules and cease immediately to misinterpret the Chicago convention for parochial gains wilfully.

The author is a Development Administration specialist in Tanzania with over 30 years of practical experience, and has been penning down a number of articles in local printing and digital newspapers for some time now.

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3 months ago

Thanks for the good article.
The name is Tanzania Civil Aviation Authority abbreviated TCAA not TCCA

Patrick Nyaulingo
Patrick Nyaulingo
2 months ago

The Managing Directors of both TCAA and ATCL must vacate their positions at once. It is their apparent stupidness and lack of business ingenuity that costs us the wananchi dearly. How on earth that ATCL operates under loss when it has no domestic competitors baffles me

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