Uganda Airlines, the revamped national carrier, will take to the skies in June, Ephraim K. Bagenda, the chief executive director of Uganda National Airlines Company Limited, has said.
“The plan is to have the first aircraft by the end of February and the second one in March. So it is the first two which are critical for the start of regional flights. We should be in operation not later than June,” Bagenda said.
“The assembly of the first plane started some time back; it has been painted and configured. When the assembling is completed, they will go through the flight test programme to ensure the aircraft works as per design. In the next two to three weeks, it will be on flight test.”
During the press conference at the Ministry of Works and Transport offices in Kampala yesterday, Bagenda said the third aircraft is expected in July, whereas the fourth will be in the country by September.
“We are going to start with regional operations for about two years during which we shall develop capacity, train people and develop markets so that we become better placed to start international operations,” Bagenda said.
The first four bombardier CRJ 900 aircrafts, which will be supplied by a Canadian firm Bombardier Inc, will each have a sitting capacity of 76 with business and economy class.
“The launch of regional and international flights will ease travel facilitate trade and commerce and tourism. The economic benefits are enormous. We spend about $150m per annum on foreign travels. Once we have our national flights, part of that money will be saved and channelled back to the economy,” Bagenda said.
He said the Airbus aircrafts are expected in the country by 2020 and will have the capacity of 287 passengers. Regarding the cost, he said purchase of four planes (Bombardier) is about $110m while the two Airbus aircrafts are estimated to cost about $200m.
When asked about the flight routes for Uganda Airlines, Bagenda Waiswa, the works ministry permanent secretary, said 19 routes have been secured. Uganda receives about 1.6 million visitors annually by air and the growth in the numbers per year is 6%. Waiswa said with the launch of the airline, the numbers would increase.
“Basically the airline should run as a commercial entity. We do not want to bring in bureaucracy and a feeling that this is a public good. The airline will compete with existing companies,” Waiswa said.
Focus on partnerships
Waiswa said the national airline will also focus on partnerships with existing firms to ensure smooth running.
“Locally, we want to do franchising whereby if we are serving the local market, we work with private operators, such as Eagle Air such that if someone reaches Entebbe and wants to go to Arua, we give them one ticket. At regional level, where need arises, we can partner with some of existing companies regarding the sharing routes,” Waiswa said.
The revival of Uganda Airlines started as early as 2006 when Uganda Development Corporation commissioned Ernst and Young to study the factors behind the collapse of the previous national carrier.
“We have managed to procure the airline, paid commitment fees for aircrafts as well as delivery fees for Bombardiers. The finance ministry is the one handling the issues of financing,” Waiswa added