Fly 540 now set for Entebbe


Fly 540 now set for Entebbe
Wolfgang H. Thome

(eTN) – Launched on Monday with yet little fanfare and following shortly after its first regional destination (Southern Sudan’s capital of Juba), Fly 540 has now started operating their next regional route to Entebbe.

The advertised fares stand at US$79 one way, plus continuously high regulatory charges, which the regional governments now have to address as a matter of urgency. Bringing airfares down on a broad basis has to be matched with lower airport taxes and navigation/landing fees for regional flights to promote air travel beyond its present transportation market share. These regulatory charges presently cost US$116 for a return flight, with the air fare costing US$158, an unrealistic equation.

The Fly 540 fares are not much different from the Royal Daisy/African Express fares of US$70 one way plus regulatory charges, mentioned some time ago in this column as breaking news, but are substantially lower compared with other airlines on the route.

In addition, Fly 540 operates two daily flights while African Express operates only twice a week and may therefore not stand the pace of the new competition.

This will be a welcome development for travelers and is aimed towards the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development (AKFED)-owned Air Uganda, which was licensed by the Uganda government in November 2006 with the understanding that fares between Kenya and Uganda would come down on a broad basis. Not only did the upstart fail and subvert this expectation but also introduced aviation stone age, first generation DC 9s as their start up aircraft, however soon to be substituted with what they say “newer” aircraft, those being also nearly 20-year-old MDs. Environmental concerns obviously do not feature at all in this outfit and regulatory demands therefore must be hastened to compel such companies to comply with global standards of emission controls. This is of particular significance in view of AKFED’s corporate song of “best practice,” which alter ego may now have to be looked at afresh by the green lobby and real conservationists to establish its true global carbon footprint and industrial emissions caused in the developing world.

Fly 540 is starting on the route with ATR 42 equipment with 48 economy seats, and having several brand new ATRs on order from the French manufacturer will undoubtedly put Fly 540 into an excellent position as far as operational cost are concerned. The route will see the new ATR 72 introduced soon, which will then operate with 12 business class and 50 economy class seats, reflecting anticipated market demand for services on the heavily travelled route.

There will, for the time being, be two daily flights between Nairobi and Entebbe, offering the important and convenient first connection out of Nairobi to Entebbe at 06:40 hours, as well as a late afternoon flight, which will allow travelers from Kenya to spend a full working day in Uganda and be home in Nairobi the same day again. Fly 540s biggest single investor is Lonrho Africa, which also intends to launch air operations in several other African countries during 2008 and 2009 as a credible regional alternative, going by recent press statements issued by the company.

In a related aviation development, Tanzania’s Precision Air will also shortly commence flights from Tanzania to Luanda/Angola and Lubumbashi/Congo to cater for the growing demand by businesses intent of trading with Tanzania and in particular Dar es Salaam port, which managed to position itself as a reliable alternative to Mombasa during the recent upheavals in Kenya.