Photograph — Nile Post

Uganda Airlines, will on August 28 launch its inaugural flights to four destinations in the East African region. With this development, the airline which recently got it’s Air Operation Certificate ends nearly 20 years of absence from the skies.

The initial destinations include two daily flights to Nairobi and Juba, one daily flight to Dar es Salam and four weekly flights to Mogadishu. Also, from September 13, the airline plans to increase the number of destinations to include Bujumbura (three times weekly), Mombasa (three times weekly), and daily flights to Kilimanjaro.

To conduct its regional operations, the state-owned airline has acquired four Bombardier CRJ 900s, two of which arrived in the country on April 24. The other two are expected in early September but will remain grounded for at least two weeks pending clearances. Although authorities believe this will not disrupt their planned schedule.

Moreover, the government has made an initial payment of $20 million on two Airbus A330-800neos for long haul flights and are expected to be in the country between 2020 and 2021. The aircraft is expected to give the carrier access to the European market.

“We want our presence to disrupt the market. We have not come into this market as underdogs,” Uganda Airline’s Marketing Manager, Jenifer Bamuturaki, said while noting that the objective is to offer a service that would attract customers within the region and market the country’s tourism initiative, Destination Uganda.

While nurturing an ambitious plan to expand to Lusaka, Harare, Johannesburg, Accra, and India following the acquisition of landing rights, the carrier is offering promotional rates for two months from the commencement of the flights.

The two-month promotional rates for return tickets are $278 for Nairobi, $225 for Juba, $590 for Mogadishu, $286 for Dar Es Salaam, $292 for Bujumbura, $325 for Mombasa and $311 for Kilimanjaro. The airline is also in talks with bigger sector players to sign interline and re-protection agreements.

The entry of Uganda’s national carrier into east Africa’s air transport market comes at a time when regional peers such as Tanzania, Rwanda, and Kenya are moving to strengthen or revive their national carriers. 

About two weeks ago, Kenya’s parliament backed the move to re-nationalize the loss-making Kenya Airways (KQ), which is jointly owned by the government and Air France-KLM (48.9 and 7.8 percent respectively). The airline has been struggling to return to profitability and growth amid mounting debts. In 2017, it was forced to restructure a $2 billion debt owing to a failed expansion plan and a dip in air travel.

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