Open Skies/Air Transport

Despite the commitments of the EAC Partner States at international level and the EAC integration efforts through Common Market at the regional level involving liberalization of services, the EAC domestic air transport sector remains protected, thus translating into less accessible and affordable air transport at the expense of potential users. Air transport in East Africa is still expensive by international standards; as is exhibited in the current high passenger airfares and freight charges. Flight costs (both passengers and cargo flights are high in the EAC region), thus contributing to a high cost of doing business.
In efforts to liberalise regional air transport as per Yamoussoukro Decision (YD) on Liberalisation of Air Transport on the African continent, EAC Partner States are in the final stages of developing the EAC Liberalisation of Air Services Regulations which will guide the process. In line with YD, the EAC Partner States are aiming at removing amongst themselves existing capacity and frequency limitations currently anchored in the existing Bilateral Air Services Agreements (BASAs) among EAC Partner States. EABC study on Costs and Benefits of “Open Skies” in the East African Community has established that liberalisation of EAC Air Transport Services will lead to increased frequencies, routes; connectivity, choices and lower fares which in turn will result into more traffic volumes,additional jobs and increased Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The East African Business Council (EABC) is concerned about the high cost of air transport services in the region which is attributed to the slow pace of liberalisation and unharmionised air services charges and taxes.
EABC therefore recommends the following:-
1. Partner States should expeditiously finalize the development of the EAC Liberalization of Air Services Regulations and adoption of the Regulations by all Partner States;
2. EAC Partner States to harmonise the taxation of air passengers and air services charges in the region to create level playing field;
3. Provide national treatment to EAC national air operators, passengers and cargo in all EAC countries;
4. EAC Partner States to come up with regional air transport strategy aiming at having lower fares for air transport across EAC Partner States;
5. EAC Partner States’ Airport Authorities to exploit non-aeronautical revenues in order to lower burden on air operators and passengers;
6. Partner States should promote low cost air carriers in both domestic and regional routes to lower passenger tariffs and increase affordability of air transport services.
7. As per Yamoussoukro Decision, EAC Partner States should grant to each other the free exercise of the rights of the first, second, third, fourth and fifth freedoms of the air on scheduled passenger, and non-scheduled passenger, cargo and/or mail flights performed by an Eligible Airline to/from their respective territories. However, for economic reasons a Partner State may be allowed to limit its commitment in respect to fifth freedom rights for agreeable period of time.
8. Beyond liberalisation of air transport services, EAC Partner States should come up with a strategy addressing high air fares through reducing the taxes, charges and fees that impact on air ticket cost in the EAC.