Private airlines discuss ‘unfair protection’

Abyssinian Flight Services (Photo: Capt. Solomon Gizaw)
Abyssinian Flight Services (Photo: Capt. Solomon Gizaw)

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia – Owners and managers of private airlines operating in Ethiopia on Thursday criticized the Ethiopian Civil Aviation Authority (ECAA) for protecting Ethiopian Airlines. At a consultative meeting with stakeholders organised by the ECAA representatives of private airlines said the Ethiopian Civil Aviation is giving unfair protection to the national flag carrier. Capt. Solomon Gizaw, Managing Director and owner of Abyssinian Flight Services, said that he liked the national flag carrier more than anything. However, he said he was not happy with the unfair protection accorded to Ethiopian.

The Ethiopian aviation law prohibits private operators from operating an aircraft with more than twenty passenger seats. The seat limit was recently pushed to 50. But the move did not satisfy the private operators.

“Pushing the seat limit to 50 does not mean anything. Twenty or fifty, it is all the same. It makes no difference. Currently 50-seater aircraft are not available. Aircraft manufacturers have ceased to manufacture aircrafts with less than 70 seats. Manufacturers like ATR and Bombardier produce aircraft with 75-80 seats,” Capt. Solomon said. “We are too small to compete with Ethiopian,” he lamented.

Another participant asked if private airlines will be granted license if they apply for domestic scheduled flight services.

Mekonnen Gebeyehu, representative of MIDROC Aviation, said that ECAA is over-protective when it comes to Ethiopian airlines. Mekonnen said recently the authority denied air traffic rights to Etihad and Qatar Air with the view of protecting Ethiopian.

There are about 26 licensed private airlines in Ethiopia and only six of them are operational so far. Some say the reason for the limited participation of investors in the aviation business is the unfriendly investment environment, which the ECAA utterly denies. Endeshaw Yigezu, Air Transport and Planning Directorate director, said that the aviation sector is capital intensive. “It requires highly skilled manpower, which is scarcely available in the market. Some investors venture into the business without proper feasibility studies and their companies could not survive. Some are even unable to start operation seven years after they had been licensed. These have got nothing to do with the investment policy,” Endeshaw said.  Read more The Reporter