Choices have consequences – KCAA’ s refusal to grant Fastjet traffic rights backfires spectacularly


(Posted 18th March 2015)

Coinciding with the start of bilateral talk over a range of issues related to tourism relations between Tanzania and Kenya yesterday, and perhaps intentionally timed to flex muscle, did news emerge from Dar es Salaam that the patience of the Tanzania Civil Aviation Authority has finally run out. Having designated Fastjet for the route to Nairobi more than nine months ago has Kenya’s CAA, a fellow East African Community country, dragged their feet and obstructed the application. Fastjet, a Tanzanian registered airline meeting all the nationality requirement global aviation agreements stipulate to get traffic rights from their home country to another country, expressed their frustration repeatedly to their national regulators and it seems that the long awaited response finally came down hard.

Notably was the matter discussed at the sidelines of the last ICAN meeting in Bali, where the Kenyan delegation reportedly treated their Tanzanian counterparts with contempt if not worse. A similar pattern also emerged over RwandAir being granted fifth freedom rights from Uganda to fly on the Entebbe Nairobi route, which KCAA also initially obstructed, then delayed and finally only granted with a capacity cap in absolute contradiction of the spirit of not just the EAC but more so of the CoW cooperation, aka Northern Corridor Integration Projects. This unique cooperation saw Rwanda, Uganda and Kenya fast track a number of projects, including a common tourist Visa and Visa free travel for expatriates. It however took the intervention of the Heads of State to push the aviation accord through and still did the KCAA try to confusticate matters and play, what can commonly be referred to ‘silly buggers’.

I am surprised it took TCAA that long to react. After all you had written about looming consequences already by the end of 2014. I think TCAA gave their colleagues at the KCAA all the time they needed to do the right thing and when it did not happen the roof finally came down. Fastjet is our airline. They fly to Johannesburg, Lusaka, Harare and Entebbe and apart from South Africa had no problems getting landing rights approve. In the case of Johannesburg we all know that SAA used influence to delay the start of the flights but they sucked the blood from Tanzanians with overpriced fares and things had to change. Maybe now the Kenyan regulators take notice that TCAA are not owing them allegiance or are their pawns. Once the Fastjet issue is resolved I am sure all will go back to normal very quickly’ wrote a Dar es Salaam based aviation source when breaking the news late last evening.

A Nairobi based aviation source, on condition of anonymity, then added this: ‘When you are a member of a trade bloc with an aviation accord, when you are a member of the Northern Corridor Countries, you got to play by the rules. Our boys at KCAA did not play by the rules. The may have thought they do our airlines a favour, who knows, some airlines, and I do not put it beyond them, might have influence peddled them even to stop competition, but the result now is devastating. It is also, like the spat over access to Jomo Kenyatta by Tanzanian cars completely unnecessary. Also remember, you wrote about the Qatar Airways chief talking to you about Mombasa flights. Those were also blocked by KCAA. The way tourism is going, it is time to take a leap and open our airports for foreign airlines. If anyone wants to fly from abroad to Mombasa, let them. If our own airlines think that for their convenience passengers must first land in Nairobi, let the market decide who travels with whom. I agree with you, this must be laid at the door of our own regulators and they have failed us again miserably. Fastjet should also use this opportunity to finally get their own Air Service License for Kenya so that this business of advertising very low fares and when you travel you pay twice as much comes to an end’.

The Kenyan delegation now in Arusha for the bilateral tourism talks were taken by surprise when the news broke about the aviation industry now also being embroiled in a tit for tat spat and it can only be hoped that cooler heads prevail and not seek escalation but cooperation from which both countries can benefit. United we stand and divided we fall is all too real and with competitions for the region’s beaches from other international countries and for safaris from other African countries is it increasingly paramount that East Africa moves closer together instead of further apart. Tanzania is clearly challenged to catch up with the fast tracking, to join the common tourist Visa and allow expatriates from the region Visa free travel while Kenyan aviation regulators have to give up their obstinate attitude in blocking partner state airlines from accessing routes into and across Kenya.

Watch this space for updates how this latest saga plays out.


  1. According to media reports the TCAA has cut KQ flights between Nairobi and Dar to only 14 per week. They have also limited KQ equipment to 737-800s and Embraer 190s.

    The writing has been on the wall for Kenya for a while. KQ has been expoiting its monopoly on the Nairobi-Dar route for too long. It charges exorbitant fares and provides a generally abysmal levels of service. It’s losing money hand over fist and has been propped up by the Kenya government for years.

    Fastjet could – and will, once it gets a foot in the door – knock the spots off KQ. It will provide a safe, reliable, affordable service that KQ could only aspire too.

    This TCAA action will undoubtedly hurt KQ on what must be its most profitable route. Let’s hope it does the job and levels the playing field between Kenya and Tanzania.

    1. KQ’s most profitable route by quite some margin is Nairobi-Entebbe

  2. Precision will increase frequencies to cover the shortfall and fares will definitely go up, I don’t foresee Kenya alowing fast jet in

      1. Game theory at its best, only time will tell who loses. How long fast jet can survive without JKIA is the key determinant

      2. ..hope KQ and their KCAA will be wise enought to act before its too late, TCAA will allow international carriers to increase frequencies that will direct the traffic from their JKIA and gues who will be the loser.. KCAA and KQ whom they try to protect since even the international traffic will be coming direct..
        Times have changed.. instead of politicking i gues the KCAA should do something because one Mutia is speaking of EA spirit as if blocking FN is promoting EA spirit or the spirit comes when theres action action against Kenyan company.

  3. This article omits one angle – fastjet needing access to either Kenya, South Africa or Nigeria to survive. The potential LCC air travel market within Kenya is at least 5 times larger than Tanzania’s which is why fastjet originally intended to set up in Kenya.

    Neither Kenya, South Africa or Nigeria have so far acceded to fastjet to do internal flights and this has thrown the company’s long term plans off tangent. Zambia like Tanzania is still too small to do much for the company’s long term profitability.

    Without the volumes the internal markets of either of these 3 countries provide, it will be very difficult for a small airline like fastjet to break even and stay even in the long term. This move is part of that last ditch effort to get access to Kenya before accumulated losses can lead to its demise.

    1. Nice reply

      How do you see the affects of GDP growth affecting FastJet’s operation? On wiki Tanzania is growing at 7% and Kenya 5.1%. Maybe these are not real figures though.

  4. That seals FastJet’s fate, now it’s NEVER getting landing rights in Kenya.

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