Four East African countries are working on an open skies agreement to create one airspace to enhance air connectivity within the region.
Kenya Civil Aviation Authority Director-General, Gilbert Kibe, said Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and South Sudan were jointly working on a multi-lateral air service agreement.
He said when agreement was reached; the four countries would remove travel restrictions to create one airspace. “Before the end of this year, we will have the way forward on efforts being made by the four nations to open the skies so that our airlines can operate as domestic carriers,” he added.
The KCAA boss said that, in February last year, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta had signed a document on open skies in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, binding the country to implement the policy by 2017.
“For the country to meet the next year’s deadline, we resolved to engage our three neigbouring states so that we could work toward realising one airspace,” he said.
In October, he added, the Kenyan government would invite players, including those from the tourism and transport industries, for deliberations to design the open skies policy.
Kibe revealed that Kenya would capitalise on the creation of one airspace by the four countries to make Moi International Airport, Mombasa, a second hub after Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi.
He was reacting to concerns from tourism players, who wanted to know why the Kenyan government had not opened Moi Airport to more airlines to operate scheduled flights.
Kenya Association of Hotelkeepers and Caterers Chairman, Jaideep Vohra, said Moi Airport was being underutilised due to failure by the Kenyan government to implement open skies. Vohra, who is also the Sarova Hotels MD, said owing to few charter flights from Europe to Mombasa, hotels in the region had low numbers of international guests.
Kenya Coast Tourism Association Chairman and Heritage Hotels CEO, Mohamed Hersi, wanted to know from the KCAA boss why Moi Airport had been starved of airlines that operate scheduled flights. He said that were it not for Turkish Airlines, Ethiopian Airlines and RwandAir operating scheduled flights to Mombasa, tourism in the region could be on its knees.