Air wars in the East African skies or mere air spats?

Kenya’s Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA) bore the brunt of complaints lodged ahead of the recent Summit of Heads of State from the Northern Corridor Cooperation, when the regulators were blamed to b

Air wars in the East African skies or mere air spats?

Kenya’s Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA) bore the brunt of complaints lodged ahead of the recent Summit of Heads of State from the Northern Corridor Cooperation, when the regulators were blamed to be a major obstacle to ensuring more flights between Entebbe and Nairobi, for which the Uganda Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) had granted fifth freedom rights to RwandAir and to Fastjet – both airlines registered in East African Community (EAC) member states.

“Your guys are funny,” shot a source close to the KCAA back when receiving the question why this should be so before adding, “Your own regulators destroyed Air Uganda to cover their a**** against ICAO sanctions, and then they cry solf that it is only Kenya Airways flying on the route. They can’t have it both ways; they should have either given Air Uganda a temporary AOC [Air Operator Certificate] to keep flying while, by the way OUR experts conducted the re-certification exercise, because your lot was no longer trusted to be capable of doing that job, or else shut up about which airlines now remains on the route. If one country gives out fifth freedom rights to airlines, even for those within the EAC or more pertinently, when even part of the Northern Corridor Cooperation, that is a unilateral act which needs processing at the country to which those rights extend. Contrary, what you have written [on] those applications are not put in the bottom drawers but are being processed. This is not an easy process as many factors must be taken into account, but when that process is over, the decision will be communicated to the applicant and to the regulators in Uganda.”

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Kenya Airways stepped up flights and used larger aircraft, including their new B787 Dreamliner to fly between Nairobi and Entebbe after the Ugandan CAA had withdrawn all AOCs of Ugandan airlines for flights beyond the country’s borders on June 17, but it did not take long for the Ugandan public to complain about high fares, eventually leading to the UCAA granting fifth freedom rights to airlines flying for instance to Juba and later on to Nairobi, the former immediately taking off while the latter was kept pending for several weeks now.

It is understood that the Rwandan delegation to the summit in Nairobi on December 11 tabled this issue and pushed for a resolution, leaving the Kenyan regulators in a fix of sorts to either follow the directive given by the summit or else be hung out to dry if they have not swiftly reacted and the matter resolved, when the next summit takes place in two months’ time. Rwanda granted Kenya Airways fifth freedom rights between Bujumbura and Kigali, another reason advanced to this correspondent by sources in Kigali that they had expected to see this reciprocated in full for the fifth freedom rights they were granted between Entebbe and Nairobi.

Meanwhile, RwandAir is standing by to commence these services at a moment’s notice, as is Fastjet of Tanzania, the latter facing multiple obstacles in their dealings with the Kenyan aviation authorities which may any time now result in punitive measures by the Tanzanian CAA against Kenyan airlines over what they have termed violations of reciprocity and denial of traffic rights for one of their designated airlines.

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