Review: Precision Air ATR72, Dar Es Salaam – Zanzibar


Precision Air is one of the regional carriers that offers service throughout the Republic of Tanzania and some select international destinations such as Nairobi and Entebbe. It is partially owned by Air Kenya, although has experienced some financial difficulties over the years. How would their service stand up for our short hop over to Zanzibar?

This post is one chapter on our trip to the Republic of Tanzania and the Islands of the Seychelles. This trip was redeemed through Air Canada’s Aeroplan and enhanced through World of Hyatt and Marriott Bonvoy Elite Status. For more information on how this trip was booked, please see our trip introduction here. For other parts of the trip, please see this index.

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Review: Precision Air ATR72, Dar Es Salaam Julius Nyerere International Airport – Zanzibar Abeid Amani Karume International Airport

Zanzibar is located on an island off the coast of Tanzania. You can fly there or you can take a ferry boat. When decided between the two, the boats did not get a great review. The major complaints were overcrowding, hap hazard safety, and aggressive touts at each end. We ended up opting for the plane from the mainland to the island both ways.

There were lots of carriers offering services but we ended up with Precision Air which codeshares with Skyteam Members KLM and Kenya Airways. Although there were reports that they were having financial difficulties, I felt a bit better knowing that the legacy carriers wouldn’t likely let their customers get stuck on codeshare connections when landing in Dar Es Salaam.

Booking Precision Air:

We booked these tickets through the Precision Air website about 45 days prior to travel. Our ticket payment by American Express credit card required a PIN code to be sent to our mobile phones in Canada in order to confirm the credit card transaction. There were no seat assignments for the reservation and the flight cost $40 USD per segment.

Twenty four hours before, I was able to do an on line check in. It was very primitive (no Apple Passbook boarding cards here) and I was able to take a screen grab of the barcode.

Getting to the Julis Nyerere Dar Es Salaam Airport:

We left the Hyatt Regency Dar Es Salaam – The Kilimanjaro. Although we had a hotel car booked on the way in, I decided to Uber it back to the airport. When we arrived the night before, I asked at the front how much a taxi back to the airport was and was quoted $60 USD by the front desk person. I don’t know if this was a made up price on the spot or what? Our car transfer in was $40 USD and the taxi street price in was 35,000 TZS ($15 USD). I did a little on line research and decided to go with Uber since there were several cars, always showing as available.

I ordered up an Uber XL and our driver collected us. We were up to the Jules Nygere Airport in about 30 minutes and only $7 USD. The wages in South East Africa are quite poor and Uber as a platform isn’t immune to this. Consistent with on line reports, the question on our arrival to the airport of whether we wanted to “pay with cash or pay with card”. I indicated that I would leave it on the card but offer a tip and gave him a $10 USD bill. The driver was most pleased at this. This worked out to about a total $15 USD ride back from the city to airport.

We got some glimpses of city life in Dar Es Salaam on our way from downtown to the airport.

Dar Es Salaam Street Scenes
A Local Shoe Vendor
A Fruit Juice Vendor

It is a pretty bleak drive up on a long straight road from the downtown core to the airport. We actually blended in quite well with the Toyota from Uber XL and we had a smooth ride. As can be expected, there was a lot of humanity to see on the way with people starting to come home from work and their days’ work.

On the Way to the Airport
Construction aiming to releive traffic congestion problems

Arriving to Julius Nyerere International Airport:

We arrived to the Julius Nyerere International Airport. Although there is a new airport along the way, it wasn’t finished and seemed a bit of a ways off from what we saw.

The Julis Nyerere International Airport
The Outdoor Departures Hall of the Dar Es Salaam International Airport
An Old School Flight Display Board

On arrival at the airport Terminal 2, I left MrsWT73 with the bags and went and finally changed some money. It was one of the first few countries that I had seen that had higher rates of exchange for higher denominations of US bills. Although my bills were clean and unmarked, there didn’t seem to me much examination of them and they were traded without question.

An Old School Currency Exchange Board with Different Values for Higher Bills

We went through the security check point and an X ray and went to the Precision Air check in desks. Our bags were weighed on giant dial scales as we were checked in. Thankfully they didn’t weigh our hand luggage as they were a bit fuller than expected.

Precision Air Flight PW 713 to Zanzibar

We proceeded through to security into the most “African” airport that I’d been in for a while. It was quite dated and run down. The facilities were quite old. Most people were waiting in a general waiting hall. Despite this, there was a coffee shop and a non duty free liquor / souvenir store on the secure side of the airport of all things.

The Julius Nyerere Domestic Departures Hall
The Departures Hall

Our boarding time was marked at 3:30 PM, but in all things African, nothing appeared to be running on time. There was an angry mob of about 20 people swarming a lonely Fastjet (lower cost carrier) representative who had to convey the news that their Kilimanjaro flight had been completely cancelled. Thankfully, at about 3:50 PM, or T-10, our flight was called to board.

Our Precision Air ATR72
Precision Air ATR72’s.

We had a crush at the gate and eventually walked down towards the tarmac to get on the plane. The ATR72 board at the rear of the plane in every instance and our case today was no exception.

Boarding Our Precision Air ATR72 to Zanzibar
Boarding Time
Precision Air
PW713 – Economy Class (single class of service)
DAR – ZNZ (Dar Es Salaam Julius Nyerere International Airport– Zanzibar Abeid Amani Karume International Airport)
May 28, 2018
4:00 PM – 4:30 PM
Booked: ATR 72
Flown: ATR 72

On Board Precision Air:

I had selected Seats 2C/D at on line check in, and goofed when I realized that on the ATR 72’s that there is no door at the front of the aircraft. As indicated, there is only boarding via rear stairs on this aircraft type. Attempting to be the first on / first off by sitting near the front didn’t work with this low number seat assignment.

The ATR72 seats are generally quite compact. This single class of service airline offers seating in the usual 2 – 2 configuration.

A Pair of Precision Air ATR72 Seats
Tight Legroom on this Short Flight

We ended up having several empty rows around us so we split up with myself in 2D and MrsWT73 in 3D for the short flight over. We both ended up with window views in this manner.

Looking Across the Aisle

The captain came on to announce a flight time of 20 minutes and a cruising altitude of 5,000 feet. We had an immediate departure while using only half of the airport runway.

Descending into Zanzibar:

Unfortunately, the windows were a little scratched up and dirty on the plane so the views and photos on the ride over today were not all that great. I chalk that up to travel around Africa.

Before we knew it, we came in to descent at Zanzibar. Our approach over Stonetown had a big u turn at about 1,000 feet. There were some strange communist style apartment blocks that could be seen from the air next to local houses.

Communist Type Apartment Blocks on Short Final to ZNZ
Large Houses with No Apparent Road Access to Them

Once we were led out of the plane, we were ushered into a small mini bus to be taken over to the terminal. There was a FlyDubai and a Qatar aircraft that were parked on the apron. Entertainingly enough, the arriving passengers were being processed in the same arrivals hall (international passengers intermixed with domestic arrival ones) as the international groups were filling out their arrival cards in the hall itself.

Landing in Sunny Zanzibar
A Qatar Airbus on the Ramp at Zanzibar
The Zanzibar Airport Control Tower
The Abeid Amani Karume International Airport
Aircraft Control Tower: Zanzibar

As we arrived over to the baggage hall, it was old school style with no conveyor belts. The bags were brought in on carts and just dropped off in the hall. It was a free for all to get them. The flights were all mixed up too so you really had to check your tags.

Baggage Claim – Check Your Tag before helping yourself to someone’s bag

We would meet our driver and transfer over to The Residence Zanzibar by Cenizaro for a several night island stay..

My Thoughts on Precision Air:

Precision Air was the right way for us to transfer to Zanzibar. It was reasonably comfortable and thankfully we didn’t have any cancellations. It was also arguable safer than the local ferries that have had reports of safety issues on water borne incidents. Everything with Precision Air worked as it was supposed to and things operated mostly on time.

If you’ve regularly traveled between Dar Es Salaam and Zanzibar, do you take the plane or do you go for the local ferry ?

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