(eTN) – Travelers using the Entebbe International Airport have for long been suffering the inconvenience of being made to walk long distances from the car parking to the main terminal, often subjected to pouring rain, as a result of the security requirement to keep vehicles away from the terminal. ‘Entebbe is the only airport in the region where you cannot drive up to the terminal and offload your passengers and baggage, or even park across.
Nairobi is the best example, and surely their threat levels are no different from ours because they are also in Somalia with troops. Kigali is another example, or Kilimanjaro, where you drive up, drop off and go for check in. It is sad to note that airlines and the CAA are subjected to dictates of this sort. It impacts on the departure experience of our visitors and many are very very upset about the arrangements security forces on us, especially when it rains and they come to the check in all soaked. The staircase to go upstairs to departures is not protected from rain and crossing the road with baggage and then often ending in a queue before they can enter the terminal is just not userfriendly at all. We have told them that so often but are basically told to shut up and that it is for security. Security is important but so is user friendliness. We compete with other destinations in the region and this is the worst experience a traveler can have at any of the big airports’ ranted a regular aviation source from Entebbe.
The Uganda Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) is acutely aware of this problem and has, according to another source, repeatedly tried to get the access restrictions lifted, but to no avail.
CAA is putting up additional parking areas to address the shortage of parking caused by security declaring previous parking areas nearer the terminal off limits – again in stark contrast to what other airports in the region do – as well as adding more cover from the elements to protect travelers from the downside of the weather. A team of consultants will also redesign the flow of passengers from the entry gate security check to the check in terminals through immigration to the departure lounges, in what could be a major functionality upgrade as the number of passengers using Entebbe continues to grow by double digits.
The last major overhaul of the airport took place for the Commonwealth Summit in 2007 and while a grand masterplan for the expansion and redevelopment of the airport has been completed, much of it has not been implemented at this stage. The cargo area adjoining the passenger terminal for instance was due to be moved to a new integrated cargo handling area at the ‘old airport’ side, to make way for the expansion of the passenger terminal, and while in Nairobi the construction of Terminal 4 is ongoing and Project Greenfield due to kick off later this year, Entebbe currently seems to stand still. Both Kigali and Addis Ababa are due to get new airports, while in Tanzania JNIA in Dar es Salaam will undergo a complete modernization now that funds have been secured from the Dutch government – which has also co-financed similar work at Kilimanjaro International Airport.
‘If we want to be a destination of choice, for safari holidays, adventure holidays and conferences, we need to invest in infrastructure. The traffic situation into Kampala is unbearable and Entebbe, once the queen of airports in the region, is now tired and comes across as almost dysfunctional. It is not userfriendly any more and the way security has taken over is totally different from any other airport in the region I have been to. The new Entebbe highway must be accelerated. A new access plan into and through the city must be put into place to stop those traffic jams. Look at Nairobi what they are doing there with new cross city highways, a commuter rail plan and bypasses. Have our planners and implementers slept while all these super highways were built in Nairobi? Tourism needs infrastructure to prosper and it is time to work on that now, because otherwise we might be left behind by our competitors in the region’ said a senior tourism stakeholder, when discussing the issues yesterday.
The announcement by the CAA was broadly welcomed by aviation and tourism sources even though no time frame for the completion of the changes was attached to the announcement.