Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA) is on the spot for issuing permit to Ethiopian Airways to operate cargo flights between Nairobi and Europe even after the objection from Kenya Airways and other local freight airlines.
Last month, KCAA granted Ethiopian Airlines permission to operate 15 ad-hoc cargo flights from Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) to Europe, which is a peak month for flower exports.
Ad-hoc flight is where an airline applies for a short permit to operate non-scheduled flight on a given route for a certain period of time.
The move came as bad news to local players, who are still struggling to get the numbers and remain profitable in the competitive market dominated by European and Middle-East carriers.
The national carrier chairman Michael Joseph said the move by the regulator to allow ET to operate the ad-hoc flights did not go down well with local players.
"Objections were raised by local players over the move by KCAA to allow Ethiopian Airways to conduct ad-hoc flights from Nairobi to Europe," said Mr Joseph.
The Ethiopian Airlines had written to KCAA requesting to operate 15 ad-hoc flights to Liege out of Nairobi from January 23 to February 8 this year.
KQ and Astral, which operate in the route had objected the move, but KCAA granted the traffic rights to the airline saying that the local operators had no capacity to meet the demand for flowers.
"We would like to strongly object to the application for ad-hoc flights by Ethiopian Airlines to operate from Nairobi directly to Liege," said one of the operators in communication to the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority.
"Granting ET this ad-hoc clearance would amount to granting them fifth freedom traffic rights whereby they do not even route via their base country. This again is unfair to the local carriers," the airline added.
Local cargo operators are angered by the fact that Ethiopia does not allow cargo airlines from Kenya to operate Nairobi-Addis-Ababa-Nairobi route.
Recently, Ethiopia's aviation regulator refused to grant a local freight carrier clearance to land and uplift cargo from Addis to Nairobi. Their client's cargo was eventually uplifted by ET to Nairobi despite the fact the airline was operating back to Kenya and not from a third-party country.
Transport Principal Secretary Esther Koimet, said Tuesday that there should be spirit of reciprocity between the two countries in terms of opertaions.
"It can only be good if Ethiopia also allows cargo airlines to ply Nairobi-Addis route," said Ms Koimet who declined to talk further on the issue.
The PS directed Shipping to KCAA Director General Gilbert Kibe, who did not respond to the questions.
"I have a board meeting at the moment and I will decide whether to respond to your questions or not," said Mr Kibe.
Open skies policy
African countries have been slow in adopting open skies policy for fear of competition with other players in the continent.
African nations are protecting their airlines from stiff competition, putting in doubt whether the dream of open sky policy will be achieved.
According to the World Bank, Africa is home to 12 per cent of the world's people, but it accounts for less than one per cent of the global air service market.
Part of the reason for Africa's under-served status, according World Bank study, Open Skies for Africa - Implementing the Yamoussoukro Decision, is that many African countries restrict their air services markets to protect the share held by state-owned air carriers.
Yamoussoukro Decision calls for, among others, full liberalisation of intra-African air transport services in terms of access, capacity, frequency, and tariffs; free exercise of first, second, third, fourth and fifth freedom rights for passengers; and freight air services by eligible airlines based on liberalised tariffs and fair competition
Fifth freedom in aviation allows a non-national carriers to land in a state and take on traffic coming from or destined for a third state.