It was a historic milestone when Uganda Airlines successfully completed its maiden flight from Entebbe to Nairobi on Tuesday, raising optimism over the future of the East African country’s aviation industry.
The inaugural flight highlighted the start of a new chapter in Uganda’s commercial aviation, with President Yoweri Museveni describing the commissioning as a “historic moment” for all Ugandans.
“Uganda plays a critical role in the geo-political and economic stability of East Africa as a region, and as a nation, we are strategically placed to serve our neighbours,” said Museveni.
After 18 years of being out of action, Uganda Airlines is back in the skies albeit with a new code name, UR. Many hope the airline has learned from the mistakes that brought down its predecessor Uganda Airlines in 2001.
Uganda Airlines, like some of its rivals, aims to attract more domestic travelers to help it buck the gloomy continental trend. Around 2 million passengers per year travel through Entebbe, Uganda’s main airport.
Ephraim Bagenda, CEO Uganda Airlines noted 70% of the passengers consist of Ugandans who currently travel on foreign airlines. “We want part of that cake,” he exclaimed.
The revived airline also has plans for two daily flights to Nairobi and Juba, and one daily flight to Dar es Salaam, which will be plied by four Bombardier CRJ 900s aircraft, two of which arrived in the country on April 24.
The four jet fleet of CRJ900s is projected to address the regional market thirst and enhance connectivity, while stimulating traffic growth at the airline’s interconnecting hub of Entebbe airport.
The carrier also plans to tap into main regional destinations for traffic which are: Nairobi – the largest market – followed by Kilimanjaro, Kigali, Johannesburg and Juba.
The airline recently released promotional rates that will run for two months: Return tickets cost $278 for Nairobi, $225 for Juba, $590 for Mogadishu, $286 for Dar es Salaam, $292 for Bujumbura, $325 for Mombasa and $311 for Kilimanjaro.
Uganda is also targeting previously unserved destinations such as Khartoum, Mogadishu, Kinshasa, Lubumbashi, Goma, Mombasa, Lagos and Accra, where connectivity to Uganda requires at least one intermediate stop in both directions.
Uganda Airlines is currently the only airline flying direct from Entebbe to Mogadishu. Kenya Airways and Ethiopian Airways make stopovers at their hubs before connecting.