Tanzanian Budget Airlines: Are they safe to fly?

Is it safe to fly Fastjet and Precision Air? Read all about our experiences flying on these two budget Tanzanian airlines.

Is it safe to fly Fastjet and Precision Air? Read all about our experiences flying on these two budget Tanzanian airlines.

Traveling to Tanzania and wanting to get around the country by air?  Trying to decide which local airline to fly?  We’ll fill you in on what Tanzanian carriers we chose and our experiences with them.

When people hear “African airline” one of the first questions that often comes up is: are they safe?

In the past, we’ve never really been the type to look up airline records and reviews.  However, when we were planning this trip, there were so many domestic airlines to choose from that it was difficult to figure out which one(s) we should go with.

Arusha Airport Small Airplanes

We turned to Google and TripAdvisor to guide us.  It was a toss up between affordability and bad reviews.  And many of the airlines hardly had any reviews at all.  The budget options were hundreds of dollars cheaper but had terrible reviews.  So terrible that it really made us worry about having to fly around the country.  We contemplated taking the bus and ferry but with just 2 weeks in the country we didn’t have extra travel days to waste.

Since we were already spending so much money getting to Tanzania from North America and on the safari itself, we were leaning towards the budget options.  We checked with our safari company to get their opinion.  They assured us that their clients had never had any issues in the past with the budget airlines and suggested they would be a fine option for us.

We decided to book our flights with Precision Air and Fastjet.




Precision Air

TripAdvisor reviews for Precision Air were terrible.  Most people complained of flights being cancelled, rescheduled, or severely delayed and bags being lost.  Losing our luggage or having a flight cancelled and missing our safari was definitely NOT something we wanted.  However, they had the best flight schedules available and the best cost.

Pros

  • Flies to many different locations across Tanzania, with some international locations as well
  • Flies to some of the smaller airports (such as Arusha and Seronera) which make safari connections easier
  • Affordable
  • One piece of check in baggage is included up to 23kg
  • Online check in available
  • Can select seat online 24 hours before flight for free
  • Discounted multi-stop fares

Cons

  • Website does not function well
  • Online booking does not work.  Once you get to the payment step there is no option to actually pay online
  • Customer service is not very helpful

Cost

We flew from Arusha to Zanzibar, spent a few days there, then flew to Dar es Salaam.  We were able to book this as a multi-stop trip (ARK-ZNZ-DAR) for $261.80 total per person.

Boarding Precision Air plane in Arusha

How to book

You will need to book through a third-party site. We were unable to book on the Precision Air website. I tried emailing customer support and they said they could book it for me.  When I replied that I would like their assistance, they never got back to me.

So, instead, we booked through Expedia.

Precision Air plane in Arusha

Experience

Both flights flew on schedule.  We departed and arrived on time.

When we checked in they were pretty strict with baggage weight, which is understandable since they have fairly small planes with limited cabin space.  I had a carry on luggage and my purse which they weighed and measured.  I had to unload and check in some of my things from my carry on as they said it was too bulky.  Ryan had a carry on bag and a backpack, which was a problem.  Apparently a woman’s purse counts as a “personal bag”, whereas men are only allowed a “personal bag” if it is a laptop bag.  So be conscious of this when you are packing.

Checking in at Zanzibar airport

Planes were in decent condition.  An on-board snack (biscuits) and beverage was provided which was a pleasant surprise.  There were no entertainment systems but there was a decent airline magazine.

The flight crew was friendly.  Safety procedures were reviewed during take off.

Precision Air seats

Inside Precision Air plane

Our luggage arrived intact and not missing anything inside.

Verdict

Would fly them again.  On time, fairly comfortable, friendly and a good price.




Fastjet

TripAdvisor reviews for Fastjet were equally as terrible as Precision Air.  The complaints were the same: flights cancelled, rescheduled or delayed and issues with baggage.

It is one of the newest airlines in Tanzania and has some amazing deals that are hard to pass up.

Pros

  • Cheap fares
  • Large planes
  • Can book online
  • Website works well and has lots of information
  • Text alerts

Cons

  • Have to pay to select seat
  • Have to pay for checked baggage
  • Only flies to 4 airports within Tanzania
  • Flight schedules and routes not as convenient
  • 2.5% credit card fee is added on to ticket price

Cost

We flew from Dar es Salaam to Kilimanjaro (DAR-JRO).  The flights were only $30 USD each!  We had to pay a little extra for one checked bag plus taxes and credit card fees, but in total it came to $88.02 USD for the two of us.

Kiliminjaro International Airport

How to book

Booking on the fastjet website is straightforward.  You do get charged a 2.5% credit card transaction fee, but at least you can book online, unlike Precision Air!   Fastjet flights do not seem to come up on third-party websites.

Fastjet Airplanes

Experience

We received a text 4 days before our flight informing us that our flight time had been changed.  Luckily we were still set to fly out on the same day, but not until 4.5 hours later.  Note that we did not receive an email notification, only text, so make sure you enter your phone number correctly and have it on you for any updates!

Check in was disorganized.  Despite having paid for my checked baggage online and having a print off of my ticket and confirmation number, the agent told me I had to pay for my baggage.  I told her I had already paid online and she asked for proof.  Not sure why it would not show up in their system, but luckily I had data on my cell phone and was able to pull up the receipt in my emails.

The plane was very old and rattled as we took off and landed.  We had not been on an airplane like that in so long.

No refreshments were provided.  No in-flight entertainment but there was a nice airline magazine.

When we disembarked we turned around to see that in fact we were not on a fastjet plane.  Instead, it was a plain white, unmarked plane.  Then we realized none of the crew had been wearing fastjet attire either.  A little confusing, but at least we made it.

Fastjet unmarked plane

Our baggage arrived in one piece with nothing missing.

Verdict

Would fly them again but would not schedule anything else for that day in case flight times are changed.  For the price of the flight you really can’t complain.  It is cheaper than taking the bus.

Things to keep in mind when making your decision:

  • How much luggage do you have? The smaller airlines typically used for fly safaris usually only allow soft duffle bags under 15kg.  No hard-sided luggage or carry ons larger than a purse.
  • Are you comfortable on small, single engine planes?  If not, you are best to stick with PrecisionAir or Fastjet who fly the large planes.
  • Do you want to fly from park to park?  You will need to choose the smaller, more expensive airlines, such as Coastal Aviation, who fly to the small landing strips.
  • Despite how many bad reviews an airline has online, remember that it is often the people who have had bad experiences that leave reviews whereas those with a fine experience don’t always leave one.
  • Coastal Aviation often has safari package deals available
  • Weather is not always perfect in Tanzania and when it is stormy out you may want to be in a larger plane than a small one.  While we were in Ngorongoro there was a very tragic accident the evening that we were there.  It was raining and foggy and sadly one of the Coastal Aviation Cessnas crashed into the side of Empakaai crater.  However, this is very rare, and the first ever crash for Coastal Aviation.
  • Other airline options in Tanzania are: Air Excel, Air Tanzania, Auric Air, Regional Air, Safari Airlink, Tropical Air, and ZanAir

Small safari plane at Arusha airport

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Flying through Dar es Salaam?  You may be interested in:

Dar es Salaam Airport: Arrival and departure guide

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