Tanzania hits Kenya where it hurts

Kenya Airways stands to lose big time after the Tanzania Civil Aviation Authority’s decision to cut the frequency of its flights from Nairobi to Dar es Salaam, Zanzibar and Kilimanjaro by over 60 per cent.

In what appears to be payback after Kenya banned Tanzanian vehicles from Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, the move comes in the wake of a deadlock on the Bilateral Air Services Agreements (Basa) between the two countries. 

Flights from Kenya to Tanzania are now down to 14 a week from 42, a 67 per cent reduction. The move took effect on Tuesday.

TCAA has written to the government of Kenya informing it of the decision, which took effect on Tuesday this week. The move is likely to affect tourism and trade between the two countries.

According to the TCAA letter, Kenya has maintained a hardline stance on resolving issues surrounding the Basa. The acting TCAA Director General, Mr Charles Chacha, told The Citizen yesterday that the two countries had gone for years without an aviation agreement. “It is quite clear that civil aviation is administered by laws and principles,” Mr Chacha said. “Each country is required to comply with the laws in a given country.” The Bilateral Air Services Agreements (Basa) has been stuck in a stalemate between the two countries.

There are issues to be considered in each agreement, Mr Chacha said, including the number and kind of flights, alongside identification of airport for international flights.

In Tanzania, most of international flights use Mwanza, Zanzibar, Dar es Salaam and Kilimanjaro airports. “When you sign an agreement,” Mr Chacha added, “you have an obligation to protect and guarantee the safety of all planes in your space.”

The TCAA boss said the measures spelled out in the letter will remain in place pending Kenya’s response.

The matter has seemingly been a burning issue for years and representatives of both countries have met to discuss it--with no success.

According to Mr Chacha, there have been meetings to sort out the matter for almost eight years, having started in 2007. There were further meetings in Nairobi in 2011 and in Indonesia in 2014. 

“We have considered the gravity of the non-acceptance by Kenya of the proposed criterion by Tanzania and the time taken and implementation of the actions seemed to be the option,” he said. 

“The United Republic of Tanzania regrets that the discussions could not come into consensus on the matter relating to principal place of business and effective regulatory control as a criterion for airline designation parallel to the majority ownership and effective control requirement,” reads part of the letter.

Asked about the economic outcome, the TCAA boss responded that there were advantages and disadvantages to everything.

Kenya Airways is the leading foreign airline in terms of flights operated per week between Kenya and Tanzania and it will now have to reschedule all flights to comply with the new schedule.

The Kenya Airways country manager in Tanzania, Ms Lucy Malu, told The Citizen that she and her team were doing everything they could to contain passengers within the given flights. “We have been affected by the TCAA’s decision but we have managed to fix our schedules and I can say things are in order,” she added.

TCAA has further restricted the entry and exit points to three: Kilimanjaro, Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar, with the equipment restricted to the Embraer 190 or Boeing 737-800.

The Kenyan government had yet to issue an official statement on the matter yesterday, with the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA) stating that only the Ministry of Transport is mandated to speak on bilateral negotiations. 

“Any negotiations between governments are not going to be rushed and I would refer you to the Ministry of Transport for further comment,” said KCAA Communication Officer Mutia Mwandikwa. “In the East African Community spirit, though, the idea is to open up the regional airspace.”

Last month, tour vans from Tanzania were denied access to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, setting the stage for frosty relations between tourism stakeholders in the two countries. 

Tanzania’s move comes barely three months after the presidents of Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda and South Sudan signed a pact on the management of the Northern Corridor Air Space bloc, which is expected to reduce the cost of air travel in the region.
Source: The Citizen, reported by Florence Mugarula, from Dar es Salaam, Tanzania


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