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Understanding 9 freedoms of the air that caused tensions in Kenya-Tanzania

By Sammy Waweru January 23rd, 2024 3 min read

The ongoing conflict between Kenya and Tanzania over airline bans has become part of a growing number of trade and commercial disputes within the East African Community (EAC).

This regional bloc, operating as a customs union, is witnessing a clash that adds to the challenges faced by its member states.

While both nations have expressed commitment through their foreign ministries to resolve the dispute amicably, Tanzania, on January 15, 2024, announced the withdrawal of approval for Kenya Airways (KQ) to operate flights between Nairobi and Dar es Salaam.

This decision was in retaliation for Kenya’s denial of rights to Tanzania’s national carrier, Air Tanzania, to operate cargo flights between the two countries.

In a statement, the Tanzania Civil Aviation Authority (TCAA) declared the rescinding of approvals for Kenya Airways, effective from January 22, 2024.

However, the two countries have committed themselves to resolve the issue within three days.

Also read: Kenya Airways to reconnect Nairobi and Mogadishu with weekly flights

Kenyan Prime Cabinet, Musalia Mudavadi, who also serves as the Foreign Cabinet Secretary, announced through his official X account that both countries had agreed to have their respective Civil Aviation Authorities work together for an amicable resolution within the specified time frame.

“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,” Mr Mudavadi stated.

As this dispute threatens the economic and diplomatic relationship between the two nations, Nairobi News explores the nine freedoms of the air, outlining the rights and privileges granted to countries in the context of scheduled international air services.

The freedoms, as defined by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), include:

Overflight without landing
The right to fly across a state’s territory without landing.

Technical stop without embarking or disembarking
Landing for non-traffic purposes.

Transport from home country to a third country
The right to land traffic from the carrier’s home state in another state’s territory.

Transport from third country to home country: The right to pick up traffic destined for the carrier’s home state.

Transport between third countries originating in the home country
The privilege to put down and pick up traffic between third countries in the carrier’s home state.

Transport between third countries stopping in the home country
The right to transport traffic moving between two other states via the home state of the carrier.

Transport between third countries without stopping in the home country
The right to transport traffic between the granting state and any third state without including the territory of the recipient state.

Transport within a third country originating in the home country
The eighth freedom, also known as consecutive cabotage, states that a plane has the privilege to transport cabotage traffic between two points in the granting state on a service originating or terminating in the home country of the foreign carrier.

Transport within a third country without stopping in the home country
The ninth and last air freedom is the right to transport cabotage traffic entirely within the territory of the granting state.

Also read: Kenya Airways warns of flight disruptions due to global spare parts shortage

It is important to note that the International Civil Aviation Organization designates freedoms beyond the fifth as “so-called” since only the first five have been officially recognised by international treaties.

Furthermore, the sixth freedom, unlike the first five, is not incorporated into widely recognised air service agreements such as the “Five Freedoms Agreement”.

In response to the ban, Kenya Airways is actively engaging with aviation authorities in both countries to find a solution and prevent disruptions to flights between Nairobi and Dar es Salaam.