Ethiopian Airlines chief executive Tewolde GebreMariam is urging the African union to maintain its drive to liberalize the continent’s air transport system and adopt a Europe-style approach to bilateral negotiations.
Speaking at the World Routes strategy summit in Durban, GebreMariam said that the continent’s airline association AFRAA has been working with the African Union on two major initiatives this year.
“The first one is full implementation of the YD [Yamoussoukro Decision liberalization framework] which is to open up African skies for African carriers. But this isn’t going to be enough. We’ve told the African union that it should act as a bloc like the European Union.”
GebreMariam says that adopting a similar bloc negotiation approach would allow African countries that do not have their own national or designated carrier to designate their neighbor’s airline to fly on their behalf.
Meanwhile the Ethiopian boss warns that with just three or four major African airlines across the continent, the market is not mature enough yet to consider consolidation along the lines seen in Europe and North America.
“Consolidation [in Africa] makes sense in terms of reducing capacity where there is excess capacity,” says GebreMariam. “But we have to get ready [by ensuring] that any carrier can operate within Africa without any restrictions so that the intra-African connectivity can develop to support the economic growth in the continent.”
He says that this should ensure that the African airlines are able to establish themselves financially: “By then we will have very strong global carriers in Africa which are able to compete with the rest of the world.”
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