The East African Business Council (EABC), umbrella platform for this region’s private sector wants governments to “domesticate” air travel to bring down fares.
Dennis Karera, a Rwandan, and vice chair of the Council, said Wednesday evening that if regional governments acted it could reduce air ticket prices from as high as $800 to $100.
Karera was speaking ahead of the East African Business and Investment Summit due in Arusha, Tanzania November 28-29. This private sector high-level forum was scheduled to take place on the sidelines of the EAC Summit of regional leaders, but the summit has been postponed to either January or February.
Regional governments are embroiled in bitter squabbling amongst themselves, with Rwanda and Burundi unable to sit at same table. The same is happening between Rwanda and Uganda.
Though Karera confirmed at his press conference in Kigali that the private sector’s event will go on in November, his counterparts in Nairobi also said earlier on Wednesday that the business summit had been moved to same time as the Leaders Summit next year.
Karera said when the private sector meets, they will renew the push for harmonisation of tax regimes on air trasport in the different regional countries.
“Kenya has its own air travel levy, while Tanzania and Rwanda also have different tax regimes…..sometimes you see flights landing and you think they are enjoying. Somebody is paying very heavily. It is not enjoyable at all,” said a visibly concerned Karera.
He added: “For a one hour or 45 minutes flight from Kigali to Nairobi, some carriers ask for $800. That is not money you can easily get. However, the price for the ticket is $110. The rest is taxes…. Actually a very long list of taxes, which all lead up to $800. Can you imagine!”
Karera’s sentiments are being echoed, it seems, to demonstrate the gravity of the issue. The Chronicles conducted a mini-survey of flight fares of different carriers plying the Kigali-Nairbi route. The results are different.
We found that the rates change depending on seasons. Kenya Airways has lowest rate at $ 240, but the fare will go up during the week December 23-26, to $304.
For RwandAir, the Kigali-Nairobi round trip ticket is $ 274, which will rise to $307 as the holiday season gets closer.
Karera, known for making strongly worded comments, said: “Why are the taxes so high? Can’t we deal with this tax issue, landing taxes, government taxes, and handling services. Can’t we deal with this? So that we domesticate airspace because these things are happening elsewhere. In Europe, USA, when for example travelling from USA to Canada, it does not require so much protocols like we do here, it is very simple.”