31 August, 2019

The rise of the revived Uganda Airlines

After a break of almost twenty years, the national carrier of the African nation of Uganda took to the skies earlier this week, to much fanfare and media attention.

Uganda Airlines has risen from the ashes to embark on a mission to carve out a niche on the already crowded African commercial aviation industry that seems to be permanently in a state of flux over the last decade or so.  

The 'new' airline, asks passengers to fly the Crane to the Pearl of Africa on the side of its new state of the art Bombardier CRJ900 aircraft. The Crane not only adorns the tails of the airline's aircraft, it is also the centrepiece of the Ugandan flag, symbolising the forward movement of the country. For many, Uganda is known as the Pearl of Africa for a vast number of reasons, not least because of its beautiful scenery and greenery, its wildlife, greenery and its unique and vibrant culture.

"We undertake to be a world-class airline that will exceed customer expectations through high-quality service," Uganda Airlines CEO Ephraim Bagenda said at a ceremony on Tuesday at Entebbe International Airport, some 40km south of the nation's capital, Kampala, and currently the country's sole international airport.

The immediate plans are for the airline to operate routes to seven key regional destinations in Burundi, Kenya, Tanzania, Somalia and South Sudan Bagenda said prior to the firm's inaugural flight to Nairobi, Kenya.

Uganda Airlines has already received two of four Bombardier CRJ900s from Canadian aircraft manufacturer at a cost of  $27 million each. 

The other two CRJ's are scheduled for delivery in September and the carrier is also expecting to take delivery of an Airbus A330neo in late 2020 which will be used to expand its route network to the Gulf region and China.

If everything proceeds as scheduled, Uganda Airlines will accept a second Airbus A330neo during the first part of 2021, each costing approximately  $110million, significant amounts for the country.

The inflight meal service has been complemented widely by passengers on social media sites, and whilst they do look very tasty and a step above many regional airlines meal offerings, it is disappointing to see the amount of single-use plastic the airline is using. 

The airline is starting at a turbulent time for the commercial aviation industry in the region, with a number of other nations ploughing money into either propping up or starting their own national carriers. Among them are Rwanda, Ivory Coast, Tanzania, Togo and Senegal. All hoping to follow in the footsteps of the most successful African airline, Ethiopian, with its vast network, young fleet and impressive turnover.  Ethiopian has also recently been heavily investing in other regional startup airlines, helping to create regional hubs and facilitate more feeder traffic to its own home base of Addis Ababa. Other airlines have not faired so well, South African Airlines and Kenya Airways,  two notable national carriers facing crippling debts, vast loses and uncertain futures. 

Maybe, Uganda Airlines will be one of the success stories of the African aviation world,  only time will tell, however, it seems to have got off to a great start. 

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