ADDIS ABABA, November 24 – African airlines have opposed the European Union-United States of America single air space agreement which was signed recently.
The African Airline Association (AFRAA) said that the continent must engage other regions and in particular the European Union in bloc-to-bloc negotiations on matters pertaining to the EU single airspace and relations with third countries.
“African airlines have been in crisis for decades. Half the continent is dominated by foreign carriers and it is likely to worsen with the EU single airspace concept,” said AFRAA Secretary General Christian Folly-Kossi.
In the ‘Open Skies’ agreement signed between the EU and the US, European airlines can fly without restrictions from any point in the EU to any destination in the America. Until this pact was signed, EU airlines could not operate flights to the US from outside their home countries.
Speaking during the 17th Annual African Aviation Finance Conference in Ethiopia, Mr Folly-Kossi said there should be a level playing field which guarantees a balance in the number of European and African flights operating in the (African) market.
“The size of most African airlines is just too small and their operation is ineffective to withstand worldwide competition, yet the crisis and the anticipated recession will result in the mega carriers of the world intensifying their market penetration in Africa. This unfortunately will happen at the expense of African weak airlines. It is high time we heed this latest wake-up call, and go the Chinese way; look for opportunities and work hard to change our fate,” he added.
Mr Folly-Kossi said African Union should constitute an ad-hoc sub committee of African Ministers responsible for civil aviation, to negotiate with third party blocs on evolving regulatory and bilateral issues.
“AFRAA and African Civil Aviation Commission (AFCAC) will provide the necessary technical support to such sub-committee,” he pledged.
The Open Skies agreement stipulates that the two biggest aviation markets in the world, (the EU and the US) encompassing 60 per cent of the world’s traffic will cooperate more closely in all fields of aviation policy. It also removes all restrictions on routes, prices, and the number of weekly flights. The anticipated effect is that prices for transatlantic flights will fall and consumers will benefit.
The AFRAA boss said that African governments and airlines have a few stimulus measures to adopt in order to create the enabling environment for airlines in the continent to thrive.
He urged small size carriers to merge or forge continental alliances with the relatively big airlines of Africa for them to survive the emerging threats in the global industry.
“States should now encourage airlines consolidation and cross border investments. Those who have no airlines currently or have ailing carries should apt for multinational solutions. States must extend their support to these solutions without taking the driving seat in their management,” he added.
Mr Folly-Kossi said the continent still lacked air services into major emerging economic power-houses of the world such as Latin America and the Far East.
“The air links with North America and Asia remain limited and poorly spread. Africa needs to expand its presence on routes to emerging destinations with enormous traffic growth potential in order to increase its traffic and revenues and regain part of the lost intercontinental,” he added.