Uganda’s Civil Aviation Authority Executive Director, Dr. David Kakuba has explained for the first time why British Airways quit Uganda over two years ago.
In a statement, British Airways said it was stopping all flights to and from Uganda as they are “no longer commercially viable”. This was blamed on the poor performance of Uganda’s economy. The airline had been operating the Entebbe route for over 20 years.
However, Kakuba says British Airways was out-competed by rivals from Middle East that were offering lower rates.
“British Airways for all intents and purposes they were outcompeted by fellow rivals from Middle East like Emirates and Qatar [airways], so the business was low and they didn’t find it economical to continue,” Kakuba said.
He also explained why Etihad Airways is quitting.
“For most Ugandans Abu Dhabi is not a popular destination. Most Ugandans go to Dubai for trade and so on. Eithad found it difficult to break-even because there were few passengers from Entebbe to Abu Dhabi and vice versa,” he said, adding that Emirates and Qatar are performing well.
It is worth noting that British airways’ rates were not as competitive as the ones offered by other airlines.
It used to offer a luxury of direct flights from Uganda to the UK, but some Ugandan travelers prefer to use airlines going via the Middle East, despite the longer journey time.
Jambojet maiden flight
Kakuba made the remarks at the sidelines of Jambojet maiden flight to Entebbe International Airport from Nairobi on Thursday.
In his speech, Kakuba said to promote air transport development, Uganda embraced the liberalization of air transport within the region in line with Yamoussoukro Decision (YD).
He added that this has included designating more than one airline on a route (s) and removal of frequency and capacity limitations, which implies that the designated airlines can operate as many times as they wish.
Jambojet maiden flight to Uganda touched down at Entebbe Airport at exactly 11.20am, ushering in renewed competition and a promise of lower air fares for frequent flyers in Uganda.
The maiden flight was met by Director of Transport from Ministry of Works and Transport Benon Kajuna (he represented State Minister for Transport, Aggrey Bagiire), Uganda Civil Aviation Managing Director Kakuba, and Jambojet CEO, Willem Hondius, amongst others.
With the entry, Jambojet will operate double daily flights.
Speaking during the occasion, Jambojet CEO Willem Hondius said Jambojet low fares compared to others are intended to encourage more people to travel by air both in Uganda and the region.
“In East Africa alone, we have a market of over 100 million people and we have barely scratched the surface in air travel. We believe that Jambojet’s entry into Uganda will make air travel more affordable to majority of people who travel for business or leisure in the region and beyond,” he said.
The Director of Transport, Kajuna, who represented the State Minister for Works and Transport, noted that the growth of the air travel sector was important for the entire economy since it created opportunities for investment, capacity building and employment including creating linkages for better intra-regional trade.
“We need to build capacity to allow our local businesses to have greater access to foreign markets. Air transport and connectivity supports exports and simultaneously increases competition and choice in the home market from foreign-based producers. This in turn encourages firms to specialize in areas where they possess a comparative advantage, allowing for opportunities to exploit economies of scale, which lowers the cost of production and ultimately benefits domestic consumers,” he noted.