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Uganda Airlines’ Scenic Flights Targeting First Time Travelers, Boosting Revenues

Uganda Airlines has started operating domestic scenic flights, which are targeting first time flyers and also boosting the carrier’s revenues from charters.

The airline recorded shillings 7 billion from ten chartered flights it operated in the first quarter of this year.

Shakira Rahim, the spokesperson of the national carrier told our reporter that the domestic scenic flights are being chartered by a private client.

Uganda Airlines operated its first scenic or joy flight on May 1st 2022 aboard one of its four Bombardier CRJ900 aircrafts.  The airline plans to operate a second scenic flight on June 3rd.

Kenneth Oketa, the Director of Vilakazi Safaris Uganda Ltd, says the tours and travel company chartered the May 1st flight.  He says “it was success because all the 76 seats were paid for. Individuals paid shillings 550,000 for economy class and shillings 750,000 for business class.”

Oketa says that just like the May 1st  scenic flight, passengers will pay the same fares and be flown over Uganda’s airspace from Entebbe International Airport to Rwenzori region and then Jinja and back to Entebbe on June 3rd.  As of Saturday May 28, more than 60 seats had been booked for the flight slated for 2pm.

He says upcoming flights are slated for October 9th, 17th December, December 31st, 2022 to January 1st 2023 over Kampala so that passengers can enjoy fireworks ushering in the new year.

Oketa says the company is organizing these flights purposely for first time flyers and those who love sightseeing. He reflects:  “My mother feared heights and had hypertension. At the time we did not think of sending her to say Nairobi which is a short flight from Entebbe. So I was pained that my mother died without stepping on a plane.”

He however says the idea was actually realized after he started engaging with Uganda Airlines to reschedule flights for one of his clients who tested positive for COVID-19 six times in Dubai before he could return to Uganda. This was in February this year. Oketa  says the airline agreed to operate the first flight after a month of back and forth correspondences on the matter.

Oketa and Rahim however  declined to reveal the cost of the chartered flights.

“I want travelers to know that it is possible to fly and  see the different beautiful tourist sites in Uganda at an affordable fee,” Oketa says. “You can present your passport or national Identity card to enjoy the aerial tourism experience.”

Businesspeople Olivia Kanyesige and Peter Okullo traveled on May 1st.  Kanyesige, who operates a pick and drop shuttle, and Okullo were first time flyers.

Kanyesige says she was awed by the aerial view of the crater lakes, Queen Elizabeth National Park, Lake Victoria and the River Nile.

Safety Issues

Planes are flown lower and at a slower speed for scenic flights, which aviation experts say translates into more jet fuel consumption and safety risks posed by obstacles such as mountains and high rise buildings since they fly very close to the ground or water.

The Civil Aviation (Rules of the Air) Regulations, 2020 require airlines to seek authorization from Uganda Civil Aviation Authority-UCAA for low flying operations. Regulation 8 provides for low flying. It states that “an aircraft, other than a helicopter shall not fly over any congested area of a city, town or settlement below such height as would enable the aircraft to alight clear of the area without danger to persons or property on the surface, in the event of failure of a power unit or a height of 1,000 feet above the highest fixed object within 600 metres of the aircraft, whichever is higher.”

Also, an aircraft shall not, among other restrictions fly less than 500 feet above ground or water unless it is being used for police purposes, aerial work operations related to agriculture, horticulture, or forest preservation or has been cleared by UCAA.

Kanyesige says the Pilot-In-Command on the May 1st scenic flight was Captain Clive Okoth who told the passengers that he would not fly over Mountain Rwenzori due to poor visibility.

Uganda Airlines’ Rahim says the pilot on June 3rd will decide whether or not he will fly over Mountain Rwenzori, which is 5,109 metres or 16,762 feet. The Bombardier CRJ900’s maximum operating height is 12,496 metres, approximately 40,997 feet with a maximum cruise speed of 880kilometres per hour and range of 2,956 kilometres with a full passenger load.

Some of the pilots familiar with low flying operations say the cruise speed will be between 550 kilometres per hour to 600 kilometres per hour at 5,000 feet save for mountain Rwenzori area where it will fly above 18,000 feet.

Private pilot Captain Austen Edmond Pido has been operating low or scenic flights in Uganda since 2018  for Kajjansi based Kampala Executive Aviation and says Uganda Airline can operate the scenic flights with the Bombardier planes.

Pido however says June 3rd passengers will be able to view most of the features at 5,000 feet because there are no major obstacles that require flying at a higher altitude.


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