The inaugural Uganda Airlines flight successfully touched down in Nairobi Kenya Tuesday afternoon, paving way for commercial flights starting today Wednesday.
Uganda Airlines said its fleet of twin-engined Bombardier CRJ-900 regional jet airliners will soon connect to destinations including Dar-es-Salaam in Tanzania, Mogadishu in Somalia and Juba in South Sudan.
More further flung places will follow, says Jennifer Bamuturaki, the airline’s director of marketing and public affairs. Services to Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Zimbabwe, Ghana, South Africa, and Rwanda are expected to be added from September.
Mogadishu is currently followed by Nairobi, whose bookings are fast coming in and are expected to peak as the flight date draws closer.
The national carrier will start with flights to Nairobi, Dar-es Salaam, Juba and Mogadishu.
The first flight is expected to leave Entebbe at 6.00am and land at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, Nairobi at 7.15am.
The Mogadishu flight will leave Entebbe at 5.37pm and land at Aden Adde International Airport at 8:00pm.
Uganda Airlines commercial director Jenifer Bamuturaki told Mbarara City News that more clients have booked the Mogadishu flight than any other, although she did not give numbers.
Uganda has a relatively large Somali community living in Kampala, many of whom are keen to travel to their homeland.
“The increased bookings are because of a high demand along this route, and also because we are offering direct flights from Entebbe to Mogadishu,” Ms Bamuturaki said.
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.
“With time, we will increase the number of flights from Entebbe to Mogadishu from the current four a week to six a week,” Ms Bamuturaki said.
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 other two, which were supposed to arrive early next month, are now expected at the start of October, according to Ms Bamuturaki.
The two aircraft will be deployed immediately to new routes, and also to increase frequency on those already started.
Passenger traffic to boost the economy
The revival of the brand, orginally founded by dictator Idi Amin in 1977 but grounded in 2001 amid financial difficulties, is aimed at capitalizing on opportunities in agriculture, minerals, tourism and oil and gas sectors, said Monica Ntege Azuba, Uganda’s minister of works and transport.
Recent years have seen growing international interest in Uganda as a vacation destination with travelers drawn by beautiful national parks, beach resorts and wildlife such as rare mountain gorillas.
Increased passenger traffic at the country’s Entebbe International Airport will contribute to the country’s national economy, Vianney Luggya of the Uganda Civil Aviation Authority said.
Luggya said Entebbe’s 1.85 million annual passengers could rise to match the 7 million experienced by Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Kenya.
“This is largely attributed to the fact that they have a national airline,” he said. “Airports like Jomo Kenyatta International Airport earn a lot of foreign exchange from transit passengers.”
Uganda Airlines flew to eight destinations and had a fleet of 15 aircraft at the time of its closure in 2001 when a more than a decade of financial difficulties resulted in its liquidation.