CS Murkomen Explains Kenya’s Decision to Restrict Open Skies Policy to International Carriers

April 3, 2024

The government says it will not succumb to pressure to open Kenyan skies and grant foreign carriers easy access to various airports within the country.

This in response to a push, both internally and externally, for Kenya to allow various carriers to fly into different airports in the country, especially Mombasa and Kisumu.

Various stakeholders, including the tourism industry and a segment of the airline industry, have lobbied for the opening up of not just Kenyan skies but African skies, noting that such a move would significantly impact air travel on the continent. They argue it would increase connectivity within Africa, lower the cost of flying within the continent, and lead to a tourism boom.

However, a section of the aviation industry has expressed concerns that such a move would crush local carriers that might not have the capacity to compete with international airlines.

They also note that, at the moment, a significant chunk of their business involves providing last-mile connections to passengers of international carriers, particularly to destinations such as Mombasa and Kisumu. Opening up these routes to international carriers to fly directly could jeopardize their businesses, they argue.

The Transport Ministry has now backed the local carriers, stating it will not open up local skies, the Financial Standard reports.

Lack of Reciprocity

Cabinet Secretary Kipchumba Murkomen highlighted that aside from the need to protect the local industry, there are other considerations, including the lack of reciprocity by other countries for national carrier Kenya Airways to fly directly to some of their local routes.

“We are also working hard to protect our airline industry from unfair competition. I know there are competing interests for players in the tourism sector, who want us to open the routes in this country for all airlines to fly directly, especially Mombasa,” he said as quoted.

“It is my responsibility to balance all these interests, including those of the tourism industry, but also protecting investments in transport services. We want to protect our local airlines from unfair competition, especially considering the time, energy and resources it takes to invest in an airline.”

Murkomen mentioned that Kenya has faced pressure from carriers of countries with bilateral air agreements with Kenya. He pointed out that these countries are reluctant to reciprocate the move and open up their airspaces to Kenya Airways to fly into different cities.

“Open sky policy is not open but regulated for the best interest of the country both in terms of unfair competition but also ensuring that we get reciprocal treatment,” he said.

“The airline space also operates on the principle of reciprocity. Our international negotiation in terms of routes and allowing airlines to fly here must be balanced with the interest of Kenya to fly to those markets.”

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