Rwanda and neighbors create ‘one airspace’ to cut flight fares by 40%

 Rwanda, Kenya, Uganda and  South Sudan have signed a landmark airspace deal that will slash down flight fares by 40% starting 2015.

Travelers have continuously complained of high flight tariffs, and the agreement is meant to open up competition and force airlines to lower prices.

Joseph Ntambara, a Kigali businessman told KTPress he is delighted with the development.

He  flies from Juba to Nairobi in economy class and pays $700 for return ticket or $1000 for a first class ticket.

This, Ntambara said, “is very expensive.” “This amount can make one fly from Nairobi to London.”

Rwanda’s State Minister for Transport, Alexis Nzahabwanimana said the deal is timely. For example, he said, a flight to Nairobi from Kampala has to first go through Kigali.

“Once this is removed, transport fares will reduce to even 40% and beyond depending on competition,” said Nzahabwanimana.

Rwanda’s carrier, Rwandair, which was this week awarded a certificate of safety worthiness after passing the IATA operational safety audit (IOSA), flies to Kenya, Burundi, Uganda, Tanzania and S. Sudan.

However, without the agreement, the carrier is restricted from flying to one destination to another within the region, unless directly from Rwanda alone.

The airline’s CEO, John Mirenge told KTPress the development will boost his growth efforts and “open up for competition to destination he had no access to.”

Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame, Kenya’s Uhuru Kenyata, Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni and S. Sudan’s Vice President James Wani Igga signed the agreement in Nairobi December 10 at the 8th Northern Corridor Integration Projects summit.

According to the details of the deal, partners will also maintain a high level air safety and air services as well as establishing technical friendship.

Before the treaty was signed, a technical committee charged with Northern Corridor Airspace Management met in Rwanda’s capital Kigali, in July this year to design ways of cutting flight charges.

The terms and conditions signed by the presidents were drawn from the technical committee’s expertise.

After the signing, Rwanda’s Minister of Infrastructure, James Musoni was tasked to convene an immediate meeting of Airline Industry stakeholders in Rwanda’s capital Kigali, to finalise negotiations on the 5th Freedom Traffic Rights on Entebbe-Nairobi-Juba-Nairobi by December 31.

Meanwhile during the summit, the heads of state reviewed the progress to build a $13.5b railway, expected to change the region’s economic landscape, by providing efficient and cost effective rail transport for both freight and passengers.

Presidents Yoweri Museveni and Paul Kagame and South Sudan Vice President James Wani Igga during the Northern Corridor Integration Projects Summit at Safari Park hotel in Nairobi, Kenya
Presidents Yoweri Museveni, Uhuru Kenyatta, Paul Kagame and South Sudan Vice President James Wani Igga during the Northern Corridor Integration Projects Summit at Safari Park hotel in Nairobi, Kenya