Kenya Airways has accused Ethiopian Airlines of protectionism and government backing to become largest transfer hub for long-haul travel to Africa.
KQ chief executive Sebastian Mikosz said that the strategy would be harmful to expected establishment of a single aviation market across the continent.
“Ethiopian Airlines do not allow more operators into their country and it is easy for them to expand when they are protected. We cannot compete on the same playing field because of completely different models,” Mikosz said during the 11th International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Air Services Negotiations conference (ICAN2018) in Nairobi yesterday.
Ethiopian Airline’s recent growth and success has seen the state-owned airline overtake Dubai as the biggest travel hub to Africa.
This was majorly driven by the lack of an “open skies” deal smoothing flights across Africa, with many passengers travelling through the continent having to transit though the Arab city.
The African airline industry is still facing regulations barriers generating friction on the cost of doing business and unhealthy competition.
The ICAN 2018 is set to focus on discussions of opening skies through more inclusive agreements and also create a platform for the signing of the Memorandum of Implementation (MoI) of the Yamoussoukro Decision (YD) on the establishment of the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM).
SAATM is one of the African Union’s Agenda 2063 flagship projects aiming at liberalizing intra-African air transport through the full implementation of the YD, to improve air connectivity and reduction in the cost of air transport for economic growth, job creation and integration of the continent.
Kenya is among other 12 countries that are expected to sign the MoI driven by African Union Commission and African Civil Aviation Commission.
Other 14 SAATM states already signed the MoI in LomÃ©, Togo on May 28 this year.
“The single aviation market benefits countries that are sponsored. The implementation should be cautions and implemented in steps. There is need for bilateral agreements between countries first that will be regulated, ensuring similar financial structure and passenger rights,” Mikosz said.
‘If not well looked at, it can harm the whole traffic in the continent,” he added.
KQ and Ethiopian airline have been on a stiff competition but the Mikosz said the national carrier would not relent to the Ethiopian financial suitability.
“Our strategy is to compete in a healthy competition and be self sustainable without government funding and grow our network,” Mikosz said.
Kenya Civil Aviation Authority has recently denied Ethiopian Airlines a licence to operate scheduled passenger flights on the Johannesburg-Nairobi–Brussels route.