In an innovative development for the African aviation industry, the dream of Free Routing Airspace (FRA) became a reality for the first time in Africa on 2 November 2023.
According to a press release by African Airlines Association, Cooperation, collaboration, and commitment of stakeholders, including CANSO, AFRAA, IATA, ICAO, and Air Navigation Service Providers (ANSPs), made free routing flights a reality for the first time in Africa.
In the Free Routing Airspace (FRA) Trial kick-off workshop, participants coordinated with all relevant operational services and secured approvals for the two trial flights. Shortening the flight time, flights ET935 and KQ 508 operated safely outside the existing routes directly from Addis Ababa to Abidjan and Nairobi to Accra, respectively.
Implementing the Free Routing Airspace will annually bring significant cost savings to the participating airlines and will support a sustainable future for the African Industry. Cumulating over a year, the shortened flight time on one of these one-way flights avoids burning 292 metric tonnes of fuel, prevents the emission of 340 metric tonnes of CO2, and reduces the operator’s fuel bill by an estimated USD310,000.
Assuming similar savings on the return leg, extending free routing flights to 20 daily flights, the operators’ CO2 footprint will be reduced by 5 million metric tonnes, and the airlines will cut more than USD 1.2 million from their fuel bill.
The project kick-off workshop was graciously sponsored by AFREXIMBANK. Various ANSPs provided navigation services to the historic flights, including: Ethiopia CAA, Kenya CAA, CAA Uganda, RVA (DRC), ASECNA, NAMA (Nigeria), and Ghana CAA. The FRA project is one of the five LAB Projects of the African Aviation Industry Group African Aviation Sustainability Laboratory to revamp Air Transport in Africa that was held from 27 June to 1 July 2022 at AFRAA Headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya.
The next trials in the first quarter will contribute to making the FRA a reality in 2024.