Flights between East African countries will be classified as domestic travel by the end of this year.
This is expected to lower the price of air tickets and increase the number of air passengers if an agreement is signed between regional aviation regulators.
The change will see the price of air tickets drop by up to 12 per cent across the region, with domestic flyers charged a service fee of $5, compared with the $50 paid by international passengers.
The Kenya Civil Aviation Authority said that following negotiations with their counterparts in the region, the recommendation was agreed to in principle. They are now pushing their respective governments to sign the agreement, said KCAA director-general Captain Gilbert Kibe.
Air travel in East Africa has grown by 3.4 per cent in the past decade – against a global growth rate of 5.5 per cent – a trend attributed to high intra-EAC air fares.
It is estimated that 43 per cent of air ticket prices in the region comprise regulatory charges and taxes, with regulatory charges accounting for up to 24 per cent, hence the need to review the pricing structure.
A recent study commissioned by the East African Business Council showed air liberalisation could lead to a reduction in air fares of 9 per cent and a 41 per cent increase in frequencies, which in turn stimulate passenger demand.
This, the report notes, could result in an additional 46,320 jobs and $202.1 million per annum in revenues in the five EAC states of Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi.
Kenya Airways is suffering from financial distress while Air Tanzania is about to be revived.
RwandAir is the only carrier on an upward path as Uganda Airlines collapsed long ago. Kenya Airways and its budget carrier JamboJet dominate the regional skies, flying to 12 routes out of the available 22.