Kenya recently hosted the Civil Air Navigation Services Organisation (CANSO) Africa Conference in Mombasa where over 200 aviation professionals attended. Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA) boss Captain Gilbert Kibe spoke to Financial Standard on the new aero-technologies, drones, plans of making Africa one airspace and JKIA’s revival plans.
What will be the impact of CANSO meeting to Africa at a time when civil aviation authorities in the continent want to make Africa a single airspace?
CANSO being a gathering of aviation experts from across Africa and beyond is key to making Africa a single airspace, beginning with the East African airspace. Our main agenda has been for stakeholders who include air traffic management through Safety Peer Review Initiative to come up with a way forward for improved safety in African airspace. With better collaborative decision making in Africa and data sharing, CANSO will be recommending a way forward to air traffic efficiency and effectiveness in the continent and a single African airspace will be a dream come true.
Since key proposals involve governments, how is the council going to ensure the State buys into the idea?
Most of the things we do are technical solutions for our flying zones. They also involve data sharing mechanism. By helping make various stakeholders understand that issues like sharing crucial data with other partners and departments are important, that can be enough reason to make the authorities buy into this idea. They will further reduce the cost of different charges through taxation.
How can a single flying zone reduce the cost of aviation?
Most of the cost of tickets come from the tax imposed on tickets when flying to foreign destinations. Making Africa or East Africa a single airspace will domesticate our flights across Africa. Since 60 per cent of the ticket cost is from the tax imposed on foreign destinations, it be cheaper for airlines to operate just like domestic flights.
What are the new technologies that CANSO is striving to make work in Africa?
These technologies revolve around air traffic management, air navigation, air traffic management systems and also data sharing. They take the aviation industry way ahead in reducing flight time, operational costs and maintenance.
Kenya has attained the last point of departure status to the US. What does this mean for Kenya Airways (KQ)?
KQ can now fly direct to the US after American authorities gave us an OK. This is going to offer the national carrier new markets, routes, opportunities from American tourists, business people and even make Nairobi a hub for the Sub-Saharan region. This will increase revenues for the KQ and this is what will help get us out of the limbo.
Is the multi-agency charter that various State agencies signed to streamline KQ’s its operations working?
Yes, it is working very well. Its stipulations are that all Government agencies at JKIA will be reporting to the managing director. Although it is not in place fully, things are working well.
How will the new fuel tax affect your profitability bearing in mind you made losses despite better crude oil prices globally?
The new tax on fuel is definitely going to affect KQ’s operations. It is going to affect our operational costs. However, it will not affect KQ’s revival plan since higher operational costs from the high price of fuel at times can be adjusted by charging more on tickets. KQ’s profit-making the journey is still on.
How far is JKIA expansion plan? Have the works been stopped due to financial crunches?
The funding has already been secured for the refurbishment and modernisation of various terminals. This is what will make JKIA expand as a premier regional hub in East Africa and prolong its usefulness until at least 2024 when projections expect over nine million passengers a year. So, I can confirm to you that the expansion plan is not in limbo.
Is it time we made drones part of the air traffic management?
Yes, it is time. We are also having stakeholders meeting on the same after the first regulations were shot down by Parliament due to privacy and security concerns. This will help us in setting up regulations to be presented to Parliament for approval.