By Patrick Kagenda
Air Uganda, a privately owned airline that flies the national flag, plans to introduce transcontinental flights, according to Mr Peter de Waal, the company Chief Executive Officer.
He unveiled the two-year plan to journalists while speaking on the airlines first anniversary of operations in Uganda.
Air Uganda will make one year on Nov 14.
It has survived in the hardest of times when high oil prices knocked out age old companies like Air Altalia of Italy, forced others into mergers and other private airlines in the world to quit the industry.
Mr de Waal said the airline registered tremendous growth despite world oil prices mid this year negatively affecting the industry.
The aviation industry has suffered a downward trend during the second half of 2008 with fuel prices influencing the performance of the industry. IATA, the International Air Travel Agency, has put total loses in the aviation industry for this year at $20 billion.
Air Uganda Sales and Marketing Manager, Jennifer Musiime, said in spite of all the hardships encountered, their local capacity had grown from 30%-50% while the Juba route has increased from 50%- 70%, and theÂ Zanzibar route has reached 50% from 10%. The company hopes to break even mid 2009.
The Airline which has signed a number of agreements with international airlines has seen its performance grow by big percentages. In order to have a positive result, Air Uganda made drastic changes, including suspending the morning flights to Nairobi which had a less occupancy rate in the companys network. After the morning cancellations the evening flight to Nairobi experienced an increase in occupancy.
Though its not what we expected, de Waal says, it has improved.
In its first year of operations Air Uganda has proved to be a very consistent and reliable airline not only in service delivery but also in airports where its passengers were disembarking.
The airline has concluded an internal agreement with SN Brussels and will be transporting their passengers from Juba, Kilimanjaro and Dar es Salaam straight to their connection points to Europe and vise versa through Entebbe. The company is coming up with an agreement with Qatar Airlines and is also in partnership with another company in Sudan to transport passengers up to Khartoum and vise versa on two days a week every Monday and Friday beginning Nov 15.
It has introduced cargo transporting and cargo haul is improving daily. The airline currently flies to Zanzibar, Juba, Nairobi, Daresaalam, Kilimanjaro, and is soon introducing flights to Kigali. It operates DC8 jets. However it is faced with stiff competition from Air 540 and Kenya Airways. De Waal says their competition is not cut-throat where prices are undercut but quality based. Air Uganda employs 150 staff.