The authorities in South Africa have decided to impound an Air Tanzania Airbus A220 at Johannesburg OR Tambo International Airport.
The aircraft registration number 5H-TCH was operating on the regularly scheduled TC208 flight to Johannesburg but did not operate the return leg flight number TC209 to Dar es Salaam. Following the seizure of the plane Air Tanzania issued a statement on Twitter saying:
“Dear Customers, Due to unforeseeable circumstance, Air Tanzania profoundly regrets to inform you that we expect flight schedule adjustments. We sincerely apologize for all inconveniences this might cause to your travel plans.”
Air Tanzania owes South African Airways money
According to aviation website One Mile at a Time, the aircraft was impounded due to a $4.1million unpaid loan.
Apparently, the unpaid loan dates back to an earlier partnership agreement between South African Airways and the Tanzanian national flag carrier.
Reuters issued a statement from the Tanzanian government that read: “The plane was impounded following an order issued by the Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg.”
Confirming that it was, in fact, an Airbus A220 that had been seized, ATCL managing director Ladislaus Matindi told Reuters, “I can confirm that the impounded plane is an Airbus. The government has not released more details on why the plane was seized. We have made arrangements for the passengers to board on another plane to resume their flight.”
Tanzania’s President went on a spending spree
Tanzanian President John Magufuli has personally taken control of the state-owned airline, Air Tanzania Company Limited (ATCL) and has spent millions of dollars on new aircraft.
Prior to the president taking over the airline Air Tanzania had a solitary regional jet and four turboprops. Today the airline’s fleet consists of two Airbus A220-300s, three DHC Dash 8-400s, and one Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner.
All of Air Tanzania’s fleet has been put under the ownership of the Tanzanian Government Flight Agency (TGFA) to avoid the possible confiscation of the aircraft due to previous Air Tanzania debts to suppliers.
It would appear that this strategy has not deterred South African Airways from getting a court order to seize the A220 when it landed in Johannesburg. The East African nation’s biggest foreign exchange earner is its tourism sector which has made the government think that by revitalizing Air Tanzania more tourists will visit the country.
This isn’t the first time Air Tanzania has had a plane seized
Canadian construction firm, Stirling Civil Engineering Ltd got a court order in 2017 to seize one of the airlines new Q400 turboprop planes in Canada before it could be delivered.
The Canadian companies claim stemmed from a ruling in 2010 that awarded Stirling $38 million for a road contact that was terminated before Magufuli became president.
Magufuli dispatched the counties prime minister and attorney general to Ottawa so that they could negotiate the aircraft’s release.
While no detail was given as to the settlement the plane was released and delivers to Julius Nyerere International Airport in Dar es Salaam.