THE Saudi Arabian carrier, Saudi Airlines on Sunday commenced direct flights from Jeddah to Julius Nyerere International Airport (JNIA) in Dar es Salaam.
The inaugural flight arrived in Dar es Salaam at 6am and was welcomed with a traditional water salute. Saudia airlines will be travelling four times a week.
Onboard the 180-seater Airbus A320 aircraft were seven people, including members of the crew and the company’s management team, according to the airline officials.
They were greeted with a gracious ‘karibu’ by the Works and Transport Minister Prof Makame Mbarawa. He said the coming of a new operator, signifies a vote of confidence in the country’s aviation systems.
According to Minister Mbarawa, the introduction of the direct passenger-scheduled flight between Tanzania and Saudi Arabia will trim down travelling time and costs, while promoting tourism and business growth between the two countries.
“This is as a result of President Samia Suluhu Hassan’s effort of opening up the country through economic diplomacy, which has seen the aviation sector adding Saudi airlines in the list of international flight landing into Tanzania.
“The president visited Saudi Arabia last year, and today (yesterday), we are seeing the results of the visit. The beginning of direct air from Saudi Arabia will significantly boost the number of international travellers to Tanzania,” said Prof Mbarawa.
Quoting the data from Tanzania Civil Aviation Authority (TCAA), Prof Mbarawa said the number of international travellers have increased by 55 per cent in 2022 compared to 2021.
He said that having a direct flight between Tanzania and the Persian Gulf country would increase business, tourism and investment activities, while reducing flight time by more than 50 per cent than if travellers were to connect flights.
He said that travel time from JNIA direct to King Abdulazz International Airport in Jeddah is approximately 4.5 hours compared to more than 10 hours when connecting flight, a move he said, will exponentially increase number of travellers.
Pro Mbarawa also said that JNIA will be a linking hub for travellers from neighboring countries, who will be planning their itineraries to Saudi Arabia.
Minister Mbarawa expounded that apart from having strong bilateral relationship which increases number of travellers; thousands of Muslim pilgrims are among main travellers to Saudi Arabia. He said launching of a scheduled flight, means a relief for pilgrims.
Indeed, the flight on Sunday departed with 63 passengers onboard, majority being the pilgrims of Umrah.
The Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs and East Africa Cooperation Ambassador Mbarouk Nassor Mbarouk said that in the past fiscal year, Tanzania exported goods worth 18 million US dollars to Saudi Arabia, while in turn, the Asian nation’s goods imported to Tanzania was valued at 52 million US dollars.
“With the introduction of the direct scheduled flight linking the two countries, means that trade will increase even further,” the deputy minister said.
According to him, goods exported to Saudi Arabia comprises fruits, meat, and flower, while Tanzania imports mostly building materials, fertilisers and medical related items.