Representatives of the Northern Corridor airspace management technical committee met in Kigali on Monday to design ways of cutting flight charges.
Discussions focused on expediting the memorandum of understanding (MoU) on joint airspace management, appointing national focal persons to coordinate the airspace management initiative, and reducing air travel costs within the region.
The meeting agreed on the creation of a regional airspace bloc that would help harmonise air transport and facilitate the flow of goods and services along the Corridor and the entire region.
Eustache Karagire, Director of RwandAir Navigation, said they were looking at interconnection of civil aviation infrastructure to facilitate free movement of people and cargo.
The meeting is a follow up to the 5th Northern Corridor Integration Projects Summit held in Nairobi, Kenya in May 2014, where EAC heads of state directed responsible ministries to, among other things, establish a forum of Director Generals of Civil Aviation Authorities to facilitate the implementation of air space management initiatives and develop strategies to reduce air travel costs between partner states.
Eng. Wonde Ade Kenyi, the director general of corporate planning at the South Sudan's civil aviation authority, said high flight fares undermine the spirit of regional integration.
"From Juba to Nairobi, economy class return air ticket costs not less than $700, and the business class air ticket on the same route goes for $1000 which is very expensive. This amount can make one fly from Nairobi to London. That is why it is a serious concern. We do not have a choice as of now, but we hope such fares are reduced soon," he said.
However, participants from Kenya and Uganda said, while looking at possible measures to reduce flight costs, authorities should consider operating costs, taxation and insurance costs, the type of services offered because airlines need to remain profitable.
"The aviation industry is liberalised and this has made it more competitive. However, there has been a tendency of monopoly. We need to control abuse of dominant positions so that we address these growing concerns," said Jane Kanyunyuzi, the Principle Economic Regulations Officer, Uganda Civil Aviation Authority.
Among the measures put forward include attracting more airlines to operate within the region, encouraging weak airlines to improve their overall competitiveness and regulating competitiveness rules.