First two Uganda Airlines’ long anticipated aircraft landed at Entebbe International Airport on Tuesday 23rd April 2019.
Captained by all Ugandan crew – Capt. Clive Okoth, Capt. Stephen Ariong, Capt Michael Etiang and Capt. Patrick Mutayanjulwa, the two brand new Canadian-manufactured CRJ900 Bombadier aircraft landed at Entebbe International Airport at approximately 09:30 hours to a grand reception led by His Excellency The President of Uganda Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, flanked by V.I P’s and the line Minister of Works and Transport (MoWT) Honorable Monica Azuba Ntege.
Ironically, having ordered the closure of the airline in 2001,allegedly due to mismanagement, debt and government interference, the President was more conciliatory in his remarks.
“Tourists who come to Uganda are always inconvenienced by several stopovers in different capitals like Nairobi, Addis Ababa and Kigali.”
“What will happen if a tourist can fly direct from UK to Entebbe or from Guangzhou to Entebbe or from Amsterdam to Entebbe?” ‘Museveni said.
MoWT Minister, Ntege, said that the problem of Ugandans paying high prices for travel has finally been solved.
“Ugandans have depended on foreign airlines but they have unreasonably high tariffs and unfair services. It’s the beginning of a new era where Ugandans will get the air services they need and deserve,” Azuba said.
She, however, admitted that building an airline is no simple task. She said the road ahead is very challenging. But she was quick to add that as government, they have got a clear sense of direction to make sure that the problems, which forced other airlines to close shop, don’t reoccur.
Indeed, social media has been awash with experts for and against the revival of the airline.
Those against simply can’t trust government to run an airline, citing previous experience with the defunct Uganda Airlines including all loss-making carriers within the region, except for Ethiopian Airlines.
Proponents for the revival contend that the airlines shall literally bridge business and connectivity to the rest of the world. Veteran Captain Francis Babu says ‘ if managed properly , an airline can create employment along the supply chain from cabin crew engineers ,to the rural farmer supplying food from the country side.
According to acting Uganda Airlines CEO Ephraim Bagenda the two remaining two Bombardier jets will be delivered in July and September respectively after which the certification process shall be conducted by Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) leading to issuance of an air operator certificate.
Uganda Airlines will start with 12 regional destinations. They include; Nairobi, Mombasa, Goma, Zanzibar, Dar es Salam, Harare, Mogadishu, Kigali, Kilimanjaro and Addis Ababa. Uganda’s revived airline will be the first carrier to operate the new CRJ-series Atmosphere cabin in Africa. The airline will operate the CRJ900 in dual-class configuration with 76 economy seats and 12 first class seats.
Naturally, first to congratulate the Government of Uganda for the revival of its national flag carrier was Jean-Paul Boutibou, Vice President, Sales, Middle-East and Africa, Bombardier Commercial Aircraft who on delivery of the jets at headquarters in Montreal, Canada, said ‘we are thrilled that the new airline has selected Bombardier and the CRJ900 regional jets for its upcoming debut.”
Long distance flights will commence in 2021 after the first of two Airbus A330-800 neo’s is delivered in December 2020.
Initially founded under the Idi Amin regime, following the collapse of East African Airlines , Uganda Airlines was founded in 1976 as the National Carrier, operations also included the lucrative ground and cargo handling until its liquidation in 2001.
Its revival hinges on appointing a competent team in place, rebounding tourism statistics, new opportunities in the oil and gas sector or simply jingoistic exultations backed by the reassurance by Commander in Chief who said ‘the old Uganda airlines died and we buried it, now we have a new baby’.