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Backroom drama behind Tanzania suspending Kenya Airways passenger flights

Foreign Affairs CS Musalia Mudavadi swiftly de-escalates diplomatic stand off between Kenya & Tanzania

Kenya Airways

Tanzania on Monday, January 15, suspended all Kenya Airways (KQ) passenger flights between Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, effective from January 22, 2024, following a diplomatic disagreement over air travel privileges.

The tension arose after Kenya rejected Tanzania's request for its national carrier, Air Tanzania Company Limited (ATCL), to operate cargo flights between Nairobi and third countries.

Tanzania sought the fifth freedom of air travel, allowing its airline to conduct commercial operations between two foreign countries, with the flight originating or ending in the airline's home country.

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In this case, Air Tanzania aimed to operate cargo flights between Nairobi and other foreign destinations.

Kenya's refusal to grant these privileges to Air Tanzania was based on the principle of reciprocity, asserting that Tanzania had not accorded similar privileges to Kenya Airways.

In response, Tanzania suspended all Kenya Airways passenger flights between Nairobi and Dar es Salaam causing a diplomatic stand off.

Foreign Affairs ministers from both countries swiftly engaged to resolve the standoff.

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"I have this evening spoken to January Makamba (MP), Minister for Foreign Affairs and East African Cooperation of the United Republic of Tanzania, with regard to the decision of the Tanzania Civil Aviation Authority to rescind the approvals for Kenya Airways to operate passenger flights between Nairobi and Dar es Salaam with effect from 22nd January 2024.

"We have jointly agreed that our respective Civil Aviation Authorities will work together to have the matter resolved amicably within the next three days. There should therefore be no cause for alarm," said Kenya' Foreign Affairs CS Musalia Mudavadi.

The Tanzanian Minister of Foreign Affairs echoed this sentiment, stating, "I spoke to my Kenyan colleague Musalia Mudavadi. We agree that restrictions of air travel between our countries and from any of our country to a third country shouldn’t stand. With relevant authorities, we’ve resolved to settle this issue, per existing agreements, within 3 days."

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The Five Freedoms of the air are a set of aviation rights that define the extent of permissible air services between different countries.

  1. First Freedom (or Freedom of Transit): The right to fly over a foreign country without landing. This freedom allows an aircraft to pass through another country's airspace without having to land there.
  2. Second Freedom (or Freedom to Land for Refuelling or Maintenance): The right to land for non-traffic purposes, such as refueling or maintenance. This freedom enables airlines to stop in a foreign country for technical reasons without necessarily conducting commercial operations.
  3. Third Freedom (or Freedom to Disembark Passengers): The right to land in a foreign country to disembark passengers. This allows airlines to pick up passengers in their home country, land in another country to drop off some passengers, and then continue to a third country.
  4. Fourth Freedom (or Freedom to Embark Passengers): The right to land in a foreign country to pick up passengers. Similar to the Third Freedom, this freedom allows airlines to pick up passengers in a foreign country and transport them to the airline's home country or another destination.
  5. Fifth Freedom (or Freedom to Operate Beyond): The right to carry passengers or cargo from one's own country to another country and then to a third country (beyond). This freedom permits airlines to conduct commercial operations between two foreign countries, with the flight originating or ending in the airline's home country.

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