The staff of the three Civil Aviation regulatory bodies of host Rwanda, Uganda, and Kenya were joined by their colleagues from South Sudan in Kigali earlier this week to discuss the way forward in fully opening up the air spaces and providing the legal and regulatory framework for airlines to fly across national borders without any impediments, obstacles, and hindrances as seen only too often in the past.
One of the objectives is to jointly manage the air space and cooperate more closely in such areas as air accident investigations and related issues.
While the greater East African Community has CASSOA in place, the Civil Aviation Safety and Security Oversight Agency, which is based in Entebbe, the absence of Tanzania and Burundi from the Northern Corridor Integration Project countries has necessitated a trilateral approach to several pressing issues, plus of course South Sudan, which is not part of the East African Community per se but a member of the “Coalition of the Willing” affectionately referred to as “COW.”
It is understood that during the meetings in Kigali, the issue of the capacity cap imposed by the Kenyan regulators on the fifth freedom flights by RwandAir between Entebbe and Nairobi has been discussed. While no specifics on the outcome of such talks on the sideline of the main agenda has been obtained yet, RwandAir is reportedly on course to add a second daily frequency from Entebbe to Nairobi and back anytime from April onwards.
The cost of air travel has been one of the biggest challenges the member countries are faced with in their quest for integration, and experts are also looking at the add-on fees to airfares charged by airlines, which often more than double the amount passengers have to pay.
A good example is the cost of an economy ticket from Entebbe to Mombasa and back. With a fare quoted by the airline of US$228, the fees and taxes then loaded on it come to a staggering additional US$287.20, leading to an overall cost of US$515.20 – clearly an unacceptable leave-alone unsustainable situation if government policies in the region to make air transport more widely available are to be believed.
It is hoped that while increased competition among airlines from the COW countries may reduce the fares, the levels of taxes and fees are also being examined to bring the cost of air travel down not just at the expense of airlines but with the regulatory bodies also letting go of some of their excessive.