Open skies policy takes centre stage at AFRAA summit
THE 48th Africa Airlines Association ( AFRAA) Annual General Assembly officially opened here yesterday amid calls for African countries to seriously consider committing themselves to liberalising the airspace.
The liberalisation of the airspace or open sky for Africa is the offshoot of the Yamoussoukro Decision, which African states agreed on and ratified.
About 21 states will start implementing the policy in 2017.
Only 15 countries, including Zimbabwe, have implemented the policy.
Officially opening the conference, Transport and Infrastructural Development Deputy Minister Engineer Michael Madanha said African Governments are committed to a safe operating environment to airlines.
“African governments take seriously the responsibility to ensure a safe and profitable operating environment for our airlines. We are alive to the fact that aviation infrastructural development in the form of more runways, modern air traffic control systems, boarding gates and increased capacity or airports to handle passengers and cargo are major concerns for airlines,” he said.
Eng Madanha said Zimbabwe had made huge strides in trying to meet these expectations as shown by its programme of upgrading airport facilities.
“Issues of safety and security on the airlines call for greater support and cooperation. African governments have endorsed an AU backed plan aimed at addressing these concerns,” added Eng Madanha.
He said the summit comes on the backdrop of many challenges facing airlines.
“These include hits on passenger and cargo yields emanating partly from intense competition, thin route networks, inappropriate equipment, safety related concerns, negative impact of our industry and the environment, as well as the high cost of doing business,” said the Deputy Minister.
He challenged delegates to harness all their skills and business acumen to come up with innovative solutions that will not only ensure survival of airlines but also industry’s viability and sustainability.
Speaking at a press conference later on, AFRAA secretary general Dr Elija Chingosho said airlines were facing a myriad of challenges that need urgent attention by all stakeholders.
“AFRAA will continue to lobby governments for