RwandAir and Ethiopian Airlines will be the two airlines to benefit from a revised aviation deal between the two countries after Rwanda Civil Aviation Authority and the Ethiopian Civil Aviation Authority put pen to paper a few days ago.
Ethiopia, already on record to join the Northern Corridor Integration Project countries of Rwanda, Uganda and Kenya, has jumped the queue, outpacing in particular Kenya which aviation body has been the most notorious in the region for blocking fifth freedom rights and market access for NCIP and EAC members. This intransigence and brake shoe tactics by the Kenyan CAA the country may come to rue as new aviation partnerships are now forged leaving Kenya and its national airline sitting in the stands watching events elsewhere unfold.
Uganda in contrast has been more welcoming to both Ethiopian Airlines and RwandAir, granting both airlines fifth freedom rights from Entebbe to Juba while RwandAir, after some prolonged struggle with the Kenyan authorities, first over landing rights and then over capacity caps, now flies twice a day between Entebbe and Nairobi. Fifth freedom flights by RwandAir to and from Juba though, inspite of South Sudan being an NCIP member, are still being blocked by the Kenyan regulators.
It is understood that the new Rwanda – Ethiopia deal will pave the way for not only fifth freedom right operations into, out of and beyond the two airline’s hubs of Kigali and Addis Ababa but has also opened the door for code shared flights between RwandAir and Ethiopian Airlines.
This latest development is yet another pointer that Ethiopian Airlines could indeed be the choice partner of the Rwandan government as a strategic investor in RwandAir. This was mentioned here recently when discussing the imminent growth of RwandAir in terms of both fleet and destinations.
Maintenance and training arrangements between the two airlines have also been strengthened and expanded, again at the expense of Kenya where similar facilities exist.
‘Choices have Consequences’ was an often used phrase in Kenyan politics over the past years. When it comes to aviation cooperation with Rwanda, indeed, the consequences are now becoming all too visible for those in the Kenyan Civil Aviation Authority who kept frustrating both RwandAir and their Rwandan counterparts at the RCAA and it is them to blame that a potentially very lucrative cooperation has bypassed Nairobi and gone to Addis Ababa.