I went to several places in East Africa and the Indian Ocean on the following flights:
Paris to Zanzibar to Dar es-Salaam (Tanzania), Air France, business class
Dar es-Salaam to Lilongwe (Malawi), Malawi Airlines, economy class
Lilongwe to Dar es-Salaam, Malawi Airlines, economy class (no flight report)
Dar es-Salaam to Moroni (Comoros), Air Tanzania, economy class
Moroni to Dzaoudzi (Mayotte), Ewa Air, economy class
Dzaoudzi to Saint-Denis (Réunion), Air Austral, premium economy class
Saint-Denis to Paris, Air France, premium economy class
The Comoros are not blessed with good air connections and have some of the smallest seat capacities. The main carrier for international flights is Ethiopian that flies from Addis Ababa via Dar es-Salaam every day using B787 aircrafts. Kenya Airways flies from Nairobi 6 times a week with E190s. Egyptair flies from Cairo via Dar four times a week with B737s. Air Tanzania has four flights a week from Dar using Dash 8 planes and Ewa Air flies from Mayotte three times a week using ATR 72s. There are no direct flights from Europe or the Middle-East.
It was an adventure to get on this flight.
Many months ago I booked an Air Tanzania’s flight from Dar es-Salaam to the Comoros scheduled to leave at 10.45 on 18th November. I received an e-mail three days before departure that the flight was moved from 11.00 to 15.40. I received another e-mail the day before departure that the flight was going to leave at 17.30. As this would have made me miss my entire plans for sightseeing that day I cancelled this booking, asked for a full refund and booked, one day before departure, a Precision Air flight scheduled to leave at 12.00. I booked, I paid and I received my confirmation. Precision Air sent me an e-mail a few hours later that my flight was cancelled and I had been rebooked to the 17.30 Air Tanzania flight.
I checked Flightradar in the morning and it showed the Precision Air flight as scheduled at 12.00. I logged in to my Manage my Booking on Precision Air’s website and my booking was shown as confirmed. The airport website was not working. I asked my hotel to call Precision Air. I managed to talk to someone working from her home and she told me that my flight was cancelled and I was rebooked on the Air Tanzania flight at 17.30. She called me back five minutes later that I should rush to the Terminal 3 at the airport because there was a flight leaving at 11.40. I packed my luggage, I checked out and I took a taxi to the airport.
I went to Terminal 3 but didn't see any flights to the Comoros. I was told to go to Terminal 2 to see Precision Air. I did so but I was told to go back to Terminal 3 “because check-in will be closing within minutes”. I ran back with my luggage in the tropical heat but there was no flight. I talked to someone from Air Tanzania who told me that the flight was scheduled at 17.30 and that I didn’t have a booking but I should go back when check-in opened at 14.30.
The departure board showed no flight to the Comoros for that day.
I spent a few hours at the terminal. The building is large but there are not too many seats.
I had lunch here. The staff was very friendly and the chicken rice was good.
My flight was finally shown on the departure board.
Most passengers for my flight had already been at the airport for many hours. Almost all of them had three bags. There are not many shops on the Comoros and those who are lucky to be able to travel import clothing and everything else privately.
I was at the check-in desk at 14.10 to be the first when it was supposed to open at 14.30 but it didn't open until 15.00. I still didn’t have a booking: the flight was fully booked in economy and Precision Air hadn’t made a booking for me. A very helpful and professional Air Tanzania supervisor made several phone calls and suggested I come back at 16.30 when the check-in closed and he would try to book me in case of no-show.
I went back when everybody was checked in and bingo I had a confirmed booking and a boarding pass at 16.40.
It took 100 minutes for three agents to check in 73 passengers.
I changed back my remaining Tanzanian schillings into Euros, went through passport control and security and rushed to the gate – but boarding hadn’t start yet.
I saw this Royal Air Maroc plane – the Moroccan airline does not normally fly to Dar.
Boarding started at 17.17 and it was by bus. The bus left at 17.36 and took us to the apron of Terminal 2.
Our plane was a Dash 8-Q400, registration number 5H-TCB, delivered in 2016.
Boarding was very slow. There were many passengers who had great difficulties climbing the stairs.
Our plane in the moments before boarding:
There was a business cabin which is not very common on Q400s. There were six 6 regular seats (1AB, 2AB and 2CD) with more legroom in front of a movable divider.
The first and the last row have only two seats on the left side; all other rows have four seats in a 2+2 configuration. The total capacity is 76 seats.
As mentioned earlier almost all passengers had a lot of luggage. Air Tanzania has a special luggage allowance for its flights to the Comoros.
Air Tanzania’s current and planned routes:
Boarding was completed shortly before 18.00. The flight was almost full in economy but there were three empty seats in business.
We departed at 18.04 for a rescheduled departure time of 17.30. We took off at 18.10 from runway 06. We flew over Dar es-Salaam, turned to southeast and we reached the ocean after a few minutes.
Free drinks and a small sandwich were offered.
We landed at 19.37 and were the gate at 19.44 for a rescheduled arrival time of 18.45.
The cabin when most passengers had already disembarked:
The international terminal was being renovated so we arrived to the domestic terminal. It had a 1950s feeling. Imagine a small, low-ceilinged building. There was a room, barely bigger than a larger living room, that had the only luggage carousel, 70 passengers, at least as many family members waiting for them, around 200 bags from the flight and custom officials opening them in the most perfect chaos. The whole place looked like an overcrowded bustling market in the 1950s. It was just surreal.
Visa was available on arrival for 30€ in cash.
My tour guide was waiting for me at the airport. When leaving the airport we picked up the immigration official who was hitchhiking: he didn’t have a car, there’s no public transportation and taxis were too expensive for him.
My impressions of the Comoros
The Comoros are an archipelago in the Indian Ocean, only one hour flight from the East African coast. The capital city of Moroni is a small town with a crumbling medina. Not much agricultural, industrial or commercial activity is going on in the country. But the Comoros are beautiful, safe and quiet. The country could be a paradise with tropical beaches, palm trees and lush mountains. Comorians are friendly and relaxed. Hundreds of thousands should visit the Comoros every year which could make millions in income that could be spent on education, health and infrastructure (teachers regularly don't get their salaries, there's currently no working hospital in the country and many people don't have access to electricity or tap water). The government's unreliability and corruption don't attract investors, the infrastructure is rundown, there's not a single really good hotel in the country and I didn't see almost any other tourists during my short stay. Politics aside I liked Comoros and truly enjoyed my stay - it's a charming country.
I was supposed to visit Moroni during the day but because of the delay I had to visit it in the evening.
I stayed at the Golden Tulip, the only proper hotel in the country.
Front desk staff was helpful and the hotel tries to improve their services, but the pool has been closed for ages, the beach is small and not well maintained, breakfast is very simple, and my bungalow was at best at the standards of a three-star hotel (the hotel is marketed as a four-star).
We went to this beautiful beach. It had bungalows that had been abandoned for many years.
I love these palm trees.
Beautiful nature on the Comoros.
Bananas for sale at a small town market.
Comorian nature north of the airport.
My flight had been changed several times. Precision Air's sold me a flight that was not going to fly, told me they had rebooked me which they didn’t and their communication was a disaster. At last Air Tanzania's supervisor was professional and managed to get me on this flight. I spent way too much time at the airport, the flight was late and certainly not comfortable but the most important thing was that I managed to got to my destination.