Uganda Airlines Restarts its Operations with a Trip to Nairobi, Kenya

Uganda re-launched its national airline on Tuesday the 27th of August 2019 after its collapse in 2001. A flight to Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, officially marked the beginning of the airline’s commercial operations. The flight to Nairobi carried mainly government and airline officials. Uganda Airlines has two planes and has ordered four more including two airbus jets. The airline’s flights will fly to seven regional destinations in Burundi, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan and Tanzania.

The carrier is based at Entebbe airport. Uganda Airlines is likely to face stiff competition from other airlines in East Africa. Ethiopian Airlines has dominated the region’s aviation business. According to analysts, political interference is the major reason for the downfall of most state-owned flag carriers in East Africa. Ethiopian Airlines has not allowed political factors to tamper with its operations. The analysts say that is why the airline is doing better than the others in the region.

Uganda Airline’s CEO Ephraim Bagenda says that their aim is to become a world-class airline.

“We undertake to be a world-class airline that will exceed customer expectations through high-quality service.”

Bagenda’s statement was during the launch ceremony that took place at Entebbe International Airport, the only international airport in the country which is not far away from the capital Kampala. The airline plans to launch flights to destinations in South and Central Africa in November 2019.

Kenya Airways in Uganda’s neighboring country Kenya has been struggling in its efforts to expand. Kenya Airways’ problem began in 2014 when it began generating losses. This was after the company purchased several aircraft. During the time, tourism and business travel activities to Kenya had gone down. This was due to attacks by the Somalia-based terrorist group, Al-Shabaab. The airline is still undergoing the problem and was renationalized in July 2019. Analysts describe this act as a last ditch effort to save it.

Uganda’s former dictator, Idi Amin, founded Uganda Airlines in 1976. The airline’s collapse in 2001 was due to efforts to privatize state firms. During the launching event, Uganda’s Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda said that reviving the national carrier “will reduce the cost of air transport and ease connectivity to and from Uganda”.

Rugunda also said that the national airline will help to keep some of the $450,000, which Ugandans spend annually on foreign travel, within the country’s national economy. Also, the airline’s direct flights originating from a place near the capital will save Ugandan citizens from having to take indirect flights from rival airlines, which are usually costly.

Uganda Airlines’ first two CRJ900 planes are from the Canadian aircraft manufacturer Bombardier. The country received the planes in April 2019. The airline said that it is expecting two more of the same planes in September 2019.  It is also expecting an Airbus A33oneo in late 2020 and another one in early 2021. The airline’s CEO mentioned that the two wide-body planes will enable the airline to expand to the destinations in the Gulf and China.

The Bombardiers cost $27 million each, while each Airbus will cost them $110 million.