AFRAA DEMANDS BETTER CONTROLS OVER ACCESS OF FOREIGN AIRLINES
The African Airline Association has renewed calls to African government to be more careful when entering into open skies agreements and granting foreign airlines traffic rights, including 5th freedom rights. The Nairobi based organization demanded that African governments promote closer cooperation between their own airlines, which were struggling with undercapitalization and old equipment, while foreign carriers – ostensibly meant towards the Gulf based carriers – were largely state enterprises with almost open ended credit lines by their political masters. AFRAA has for long advocated to strengthen African airlines and work more closely together in all aspects of operations, including maintenance, purchasing and training. Said one regular aviation source in Nairobi about the topic put to him: ‘There are a handful of airlines in Africa which have made a success. Kenya Airways, Ethiopian, South African are the first to come to mind and Egypt Air will overcome their present challenges without doubt. Then there is Royal Air Maroc which also is making an impact but on the downside airlines in West Africa, since the demise of Air Afrique, have struggled. Now those which are successful are nevertheless victims of their own government’s generosity towards those Gulf airlines which are now flying across Africa. They take traffic from African airlines by means which are not properly controlled and regulated. ET, KQ and SAA should look at cooperation but belonging to different global airline alliances has not made that task easier. They compete against each other but sometimes it seems they are more looking at each other than the external threats to their survival. I think AFRAA’s initiative, recurrent as it is, must be supported. Still, considering the cut throat situation here in Kenya on the domestic routes, will our African airlines ever learn that together they are stronger than individually?’
In closing does this correspondent ask: will African airlines, apart from a handful of success stories, become mere niche carriers to feed / de-feed for the big league global giants and what impact will this have on the aviation development of the continent, where the absence of road and rail infrastructure in many countries still makes air transport the only viable way to go places, domestically and continentally.
Watch this space.