Kenya and its landlocked neighbours are developing a framework around which air fares will be lowered within the bloc ahead of an open air sky in January 2016.
This follows a directive issued jointly by presidents Uhuru Kenyatta, Paul Kagame of Rwanda, Yoweri Museveni of Uganda and Salva Kiir of South Sudan at the 11th Northern Corridor Integration Summit in Nairobi last weekend.
“Ensure that there is fairness in pricing of air tickets on all regional routes, specific attention should be given to Juba-Nairobi-Juba and Entebbe-Nairobi-Entebbe routes,” said a communiqué signed by the four leaders.
Ministers of respective countries are now engaging the airline sector with a view to enhancing competition and making flights affordable.
Kenya is expected to be the biggest beneficiary of the arrangement, which is seen as a remedy that could revive the ailing Kenya Airways.
Tourism Cabinet Secretary Phyllis Kandie on Monday said Kenya is positioning itself to fully benefit from the arrangement, by allowing international airlines to operate scheduled flights to Mombasa.
“Government will also expand Malindi Airport to accommodate international flights. The new arrangements will see tourists flock to the Coast, increasing earnings,” said Mrs Kandie in Mombasa.
OPEN SKIES POLICY
The arrangements come at a time when Kenya is hit by low international arrivals due to fewer charter flights from Europe.
Kenya Airways is greatly affected, following a Sh25.7 billion loss in the 12 months to March 31. Rwanda Air and Kenya Airways are the only national airlines plying the routes. The two will operate domestic flights in the region, opening up bigger volume of business.
They will also get full benefits of national carriers in South Sudanese and Ugandan air space.
The framework on liberalised air space will lift all barriers related to capacity, frequencies, city pairs, cabotage (the exclusive right of a country to operate the air traffic within its territory) and designation of airlines. This will in turn lead to reduced air fares in the region.
The presidents also ordered member countries to align their bilateral air service agreements to the 5th Freedom Traffic Rights in line with the provisions of the Yamoussoukro Decision. The provisions guarantee an air space free of uncompetitive domestic and the agreements, regulatory and fiscal policies such as airport taxes and limited subsidisation.
The uncompetitive behaviour has been blamed for the sector’s slow growth. Partner States will involve the African Civil Aviation Commission in the operationalisation of the competition rules and dispute resolution within the northern corridor bloc to ensure fair play.