The East African Community (EAC) will this financial year prioritise harmonisation of air charges and taxes in a bid to reduce the cost of intra-EAC air travel, according to Mr Adan Mohamed, the Council of Ministers chairperson.
While reading the EAC 2021/22 budget, Mr Mohamed, who is also Kenya’s Minister for EAC, said the civil aviation and airports sub-sector, although there has been some delays, will focus on implementation of the EAC Upper Airspace Seamless Operations earmarked under the 2017-22 project.
During this financial year, he said, the region will implement strategies that seek to reduce the cost of intra-EAC air tickets and air operations.
This, Mr Mohamed noted, will be achieved through harmonisation of air travel related charges and tax regimes, which feed into the price of air travel.
EAC has one of the most expensive flight routes, with Entebbe-Nairobi taking the lead.
However, despite the high cost, air travel within East Africa has been growing, rising by 3.4 per cent in the past decade against a global rate of 5.5 per cent.
It is estimated that 43 per cent of air ticket prices in EAC comprise of regulatory charges and taxes, with regulatory fees accounting for up to 24 per cent.
According to a research commissioned by the East African Business Council about air liberalisation, it was found that harmonisation could lead to a reduction in air fares by 9 per cent.
The reduction, the report noted, would lead to a 41 per cent increase in frequencies, which in turn will stimulate passenger demand.
Mr Mohamed said to achieve this, EAC states must commit to implement the Yamoussoukro Decision as part of the Common Market Protocol, which is in line with efforts by the African Union Commission and the African Civil Aviation Commission to operationalise the Single African Air Transport Market.
Responding to the planned harmonisation, Captain Francis Babu, a renowned aviation expert, said regional flights should be considered as domestic, with an opportunity to be given particular subsidies.
Captain Babu also noted that all countries within the region institute different taxes on air ticket, noting there was need to standardise all these into one tax payable at a single port.
According to Captain Babu, between Entebbe and Nairobi a ticket goes for an average of $380 (Shs1.3m) while between Entebbe and Dar es Salaam a flight costs between $400 and $500 (Shs1.4m and Shs1.7m) for economy class, which is slightly expensive for an ordinary traveler.
Source: The Monitor