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Uganda Airlines Poised to End Year on a High

Passengers boarding the Airbus ahead of Uganda Airlines’ maiden flight to Dubai in October 2021

Uganda Airlines is set to start direct flights to Mumbai, India on 7th October 2023.

Mumbai will bring the number of international flights by the national carrier to two after Dubai, with Guangzhou, China also planned in November, according to the management.

The airline, code UR will operate three flights a week from Entebbe for both Mumbai and Lagos, while the landing rights secured by UR in China in June last year could see the airline start with one weekly flight.

Currently, the national carrier flies to 13 destinations, 11 of them being regional (intra-Africa).

The local aviation industry could get a further boost this year following the oversight audit of Entebbe International Airport this week by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

Should the airport pass the audit, this will not only attract more airlines into Uganda but also empower Uganda Airlines to fly more international destinations, according to Edward Katumba Wamala, the Minister for Works and Transport.

“If the outcome of the audit is positive, then it will be an advantage for the country since it will create trust and confidence in the country’s airspace among stakeholders,” Wamala said.

The audit is aimed at assessing the level of the country’s adherence to ICAO standards and recommended operational practices.

ICAO is a UN agency responsible for monitoring and setting standards for the global aviation industry, especially for safety.

I 2017, Entebbe passed the ICAO universal safety audit but had never undergone the universal safety oversight audit since 2014, fact that the UK delayed allowing UR direct flights to Heathrow airport since last year.

The authorities in London gave the flag carrier the option of using other airports in the continent which has been certified, to launch her flights to the UK.

After this oversight audit, the UK is expected to conduct its own safety and security audit of the airport based on the outcome of the ICAO audit before making a decision on UR’s direct flights out of Entebbe.

“The audit will also unlock more flights for Uganda Airlines to other destinations like the UK which has not allowed the national carrier to fly to their airspace until the audit is done,” Gen Wamala said after the audit team returned from the airport.

Mr. Manjang Kemo Ousman, the ICAO audit team leader noted the progress made in improving the aviation space in Uganda but said there was a lot to do to unlock its full potential..

“There is a lot of potential that could be unlocked with small investment in aviation, but you have to do well and demonstrate to the international community that Uganda is serious,” he said, adding that the country has effectively implemented safety oversight systems at the international level.

Earlier this year, Uganda Airlines and Minar Travels(Indian) Pvt Ltd announced a partnership with a general sales agency in India, with Minar promising to use its experience to support Uganda Airlines’ launch and marketing. “The fact that Uganda Airlines connects to most of the major cities in East and South Africa will make it an excellent product and a choice airline for Indian travelers to Uganda and the rest of Africa,” said HS Duggal, Managing Director, Minar Travels.

Current destinations include Nairobi and Mombasa in Kenya; Dar es Salaam, Zanzibar, and Kilimanjaro in Tanzania; Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Bujumbura in Burundi, Juba in South Sudan, Mogadishu in Somalia and Johannesburg in South Africa.

The company also has plans in the short term to fly to Jeddah through Riyadh while discussions are ongoing with authorities for Cape Town (South Africa) Goma (DRC), Harare (Zimbabwe), and Lusaka (Zambia), according to Jennifer Bamuturaki, the Uganda Airlines CEO.

The South African destinations are increasingly becoming lucrative following the withdrawal from Entebbe by Airlink which had taken over from the collapsed South African Airways.

UR has reportedly secured the approval of Pretoria to increase the number of flights to O.R Tambo to capture the void left by Airlink.

Currently, the airline operates the Bombardier CRJ900 every Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Saturday, while the Airbus A330 will every Friday, as it now plans to fly daily starting next month when Airlink officially exits the route.

Its decision to quit was informed by the falling business made worse since the outbreak of COVID-19 in 2020.

“Despite our best efforts to promote traffic between the two cities, the post-COVID demand in both directions has remained weak and traffic volumes are too thin to support competing airlines,”  said CEO Rodger Foster.

-URN

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