First reported here in late November 2009, the demands of CASSOA for a 70 US cents per ticket coupon levy to finance operations did not go down well with airlines, passengers and member states. Opposed by Kenya and Tanzania, the East African Civil Aviation Safety and Security Oversight Agency has now changed tune and ‘reduced‘ their demands to reportedly 30 US cents to appease the member countries and finally secure a funding approval, the absence of which, according to a CASSOA staff, ‘makes our life a bit difficult’.
‘CASSOA was supposed to make life easier as a one stop centre for East Africa wide approvals, licences and permits. This has NOT happened. National regulators still make airlines file multiple applications if they want to operate in the member states other than where they are registered. Why should passenger have to pay for another layer of bureaucracy which failed to meet its objective’ commented a domestic airline operator in Uganda while a commercial airline sales staff said: ‘The charges on tickets in Uganda, in fact the entire EAC, is already very high. Let me be blunt, government milks aviation and tourism and put too little back into the sector. Fares charged by airlines are often nearly tripled by charges and fees and taxes when flying in East Africa or on international routes. This is not right. That money rarely makes its way back to meet sectoral needs. We need to invest in new technology and new infrastructure. True, many airports in the region are getting modernized now, finally, but that is after many years of neglect.
Another regular commenter from the general aviation services added: ‘What we need, and would welcome, is one single stop approval process for licenses and permits, valid across the entire East African Community, doing away with the national approval levels.
The regulators should pool resources and become more efficient. Flight clearances should be done instantly for the entire EAC. CASSOA could take over the licensing process on behalf of Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi and us here in Uganda. Certificates of airworthiness, air operator certification, air service licenses, inspections of facilities and all could be done by CASSOA but national regulators are jealously protecting their own turf. As a result we have a duplication and multiplication of paperworks which adds to the cost of flying. How come we are still treated as ‘FOREIGN AIRLINES’ when we try to fly to a neighbouring country, this violates the spirit and in my opinion even the law of the EAC. They [CASSOA] should not hide behind being only responsible for safety and security, there is more to aviation than that and even there national regulators still pursue their own agenda’, shy to be named for fear of repercussions against his company by UCAA officials.
CASSOA is headquartered in Entebbe but maintains liaisons with the national civil aviation regulators in all the five EAC member states, and supposed to be funded with equitable contributions from the member states, based on the number of flight movements, passengers and number of aircraft registered, but since its inception has the agency struggled to get adequate funds. Yet, disputes among member states over the level of a levy on tickets as well as their national share have made it impossible to reach consensus so far, endangering the agency’s functionality. East African spirit, certainly NOT flying high.