A simmering cargo dispute has erupted into a full-blown airspace standoff as Tanzania suspends all Kenya Airways flights starting January 22nd, 2024.
This tit-for-tat move throws a wrench into air travel between the East African neighbors, leaving thousands of passengers and businesses caught in the crosshairs.
At the heart of the dispute lies Kenya’s refusal to grant Air Tanzania, the flag carrier of Tanzania, permission to operate all-cargo flights between Nairobi and other international destinations.
This denial, according to Tanzania’s Civil Aviation Authority, violates the 2016 Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Air Services between the two nations. The MoU guarantees reciprocal rights for airlines to operate both passenger and cargo flights across the shared border.
Kenya Airways, a dominant player in the regional aviation scene, flies several routes to and from Tanzania, making it a lifeline for passengers, trade, and tourism.
The sudden grounding of its operations will have ripple effects beyond just cancelled flights. Businesses that rely on air cargo between the two countries could face delays and disruptions, potentially impacting supply chains and local economies.
Tanzania’s decision, announced in a strongly worded statement, paints Kenya’s refusal as an unfair advantage for Kenyan airlines and a breach of the bilateral agreement.
“This is not just about cargo planes,” emphasized Hamza Johari, Director General of Tanzania’s Civil Aviation Authority. “It’s about upholding the principles of fair competition and reciprocity enshrined in the MoU.”
While Tanzania emphasizes its commitment to international aviation agreements, the move raises concerns about escalating tensions and diplomatic hurdles. Both countries stand to lose from this tit-for-tat saga, with passengers facing travel disruptions and businesses bearing the brunt of economic uncertainties.