Astral Aviation, Ethiopian, Etihad, AirFrance/KLM/Martinair will be having to make space on the cargo stage come SEP21, as a new cargo airline is planning to take off from Dar es Salaam, Tanzania: W-Cargo Airlines…
Yet a few of the W-questions: what, where, who, why, and when, are open given that neither the new airline nor its recently registered company, Warnercom Tanzania Limited, (I’m guessing that’s where the W comes from) appear on the internet or in LinkedIn, for example. Begs the question, then, how bookings are going to be made at this point, just weeks away from take-off?
Have license, will transport
What is certain, is that W-Cargo is licensed to fly. It received a one-year license from the Tanzanian Civil Aviation Authority (TCAA) on 02JUN21, in line with its plans to finally commence cargo operations in mid-SEP21. It will trade as “W-Cargo Airlines” and aims to deploy a B737-400F to begin with, adding a Fokker F-27 for domestic activities at a later stage. The license information on the TCAA includes the following scheduled routes: (a) Mwanza-Kia-Brussels-Mwanza, (b) Dar-Doha-Dar, (c) Dar-Sharjah-Dar, (d) Dar-Hong Kong-Guangzhou-Dar, (e) Dar-The Netherlands-Spain-Dar, (f) Dar-London-Milan-Liege-Dar, (g) Dar-Hahaya-Dar, (h) Dar-Mumbai-Dar, (i) Dar-Lilongwe-Johannesburg-Dar, (j) Dar-Entebbe-Kinshasa-Goma-Dar, (k) Dar-Lusaka-Luanda-Dar, (l) Dar-Khartoum-Nairobi-Dar, (m) Kilimanjaro-Dar, (n) Mwanza-Kilimanjaro-Dar, (o) Dar-Songwe-Dar (p) Dar-Zanzibar-Kilimanjaro-Dar, as well permission for non-scheduled (air charter) cargo services.
Who’s the boss?
Searching for W-Cargo Airlines information, a Mr. John Lupemba pops up with a LinkedIn profile and 20 contacts, bearing the title “Director W-Cargo Airlines” since JAN19. The W-Cargo Airlines page does not yet exist, but a description is given: “W-Cargo Airlines, is an airfreight company based in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Operating Scheduled and Non-Scheduled air services.” An article in Tanzania’s “The Citizen” from 02JUL20, names Mr. John Buyamba as W-Cargo Airlines’ Managing Director, who reveals that the airline is working together with a Romanian consulting company, Darmah Greens SRL (also founded in 2019, though no information is available regarding any airline financial management expertise as again no online presence exists), which has been instrumental in providing financial systems support. The airline has allocated $10 million (Sh23bn) to begin business. Given that African airports are notoriously expensive, and Tanzanian airports are no exception with high landing, fuel, and airport service charges, it will be a challenge for the new airline starting out, particularly since it is up against established, large competitors. In addition, Tanzania suffers from a lack of two-way cargo traffic, so it will be tough to balance profitability on flights. The call to reduce airport charges has long been there, yet with the added losses suffered through the pandemic, every cent counts. W-Cargo Airlines will therefore also be competing against those operating out of neighboring airports.
High time for a home-grown cargo airline
19 airlines serve Tanzania, and, since its local carrier Air Tanzania is still waiting for its promised B767F (an agenda item that has been in place for years, and which was yet again mentioned by President John Magufuli at the 12th Parliament inauguration in NOV20, where he confirmed that the government was planning to “buy one cargo aircraft for the national carrier with a view to boosting exportation of horticultural products, fish fillets and meat” according to The Citizen, 19NOV20), and though it, like local competitor Precision Air, has carried cargo on some of its passenger flights during the pandemic, the lucrative cargo that exists is all imported and exported on strong, foreign carriers. Voices in the industry have long pushed for a local cargo focus. Quoted in The Citizen back on 19NOV20, one veteran aviation expert, Juma Fimbo urged “We need to make local cargo business our priority. Cargo's demand characteristics should be independent of air passenger demand,” and called for more favorable costs to encourage and support local cargo businesses.
Direct routes save time
On the positive side, W-Cargo Airlines will be the first local cargo-only airline operating from Tanzania. It will be offering direct capacity at a time when passenger aircraft, which have in the past carried cargo out of Tanzania, are still limited in their operations and it will take a couple of years before they return (if they do) to pre-COVID-19 levels.
Tanzania exports a great deal of horticulture and perishables cargo, and these products will benefit from shorter, more direct routes and minimized handling times. A freighter also does not compete against passenger luggage, which normally is the case during the peak perishable season coinciding with the peak holiday season. Local perishable cargo dealers will therefore welcome the newcomer – the price just has to be right, too.
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