Firm among four seeking UCAA’s air transport licenses
| RONALD MUSOKE | Four airlines are seeking for entry into Uganda’s aviation industry to tap into the growing demand for air passenger and cargo services.
These include; Dott Services Ltd, a company renowned in Uganda’s engineering and road construction sector, Safari Air International, Panafric Aviation and Aberdair Aviation Uganda.
Meanwhile, Entebbe Airways, Uganda Air Cargo, KAFTC (BAR Aviation) and Samaritans’ Purse International are seeking for renewal of their air operator licences.
On May 20, the Uganda Civil Aviation Authority’s Air Services Licensing Committee listened to the eight air transport operators defend their applications for new and renewal of air service licenses.
Vianney Luggya, the manager public affairs at UCAA told The Independent that every applicant at such a public hearing is normally expected to clarify on issues to do with their business plan, proposed air routes, and equipment to be used, among others.
“Air Service Licensing Committee regulations require that a notice of all the applicants (new or renewal) be placed in the print media 30 days prior to the date of consideration of the applications by the Board,” he said.
Luggya said the public hearing provides the public an opportunity to offer any relevant information to the licensing committee to inform the decision. According to the UCAA, the applicants have applied mainly for scheduled and non-scheduled domestic operations, international and cargo services.
Liberal air space
Uganda operates a liberal air transport system with free entry and exit. As a result, several international airlines have recently joined Uganda’s airspace, with the most current being Saudia Airlines, which commenced flights between Uganda and Saudi Arabia in February, this year.
Last September, Airlink commenced flights between South Africa and Entebbe while Air Arabia commenced flights between Entebbe and Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates in October 2021.
Two years earlier, in November 2019, the government of Uganda revived its national flag carrier, the Uganda Airlines, after almost two decades out of the skies. The national carrier now flies to about 10 destinations including; Bujumbura, Dar es Salam, Dubai, Kilimanjaro, Kinshasa, Johannesburg, Juba, Mogadishu, Mombasa, Nairobi and Zanzibar.
On the other hand, Etihad, one of the leading Middle Eastern airlines halted its flights to Entebbe in 2018 citing poor performance of the route. This came three years after British Airways suspended its service to Entebbe after almost 24 years of uninterrupted service.
Pick-up in air travel
The new entrants come at a time when the local aviation industry is registering a pick-up in business albeit with mixed fortunes for the local and international terminals.
According to UCAA, until the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, international passenger traffic at Entebbe International Airport had been growing steadily over the years. Statistics from the UCAA show that before the advent of COVID-19 in 2019, Entebbe International Airport registered 1.98 million international passengers— an average of about 5,000 passengers per day.
The daily average, however, reduced to 1,500 per day in 2020 owing to suspension of commercial passenger operations for the bigger part of the year but slightly increased to 2,568 per day in 2021.
However, in March 2022, following the full opening up of the economy, Entebbe International Airport recorded 53,532 arrivals and 60,268 departures, translating into an average of 3,793 passengers going through the airport per day.
In April 2022, the airport recorded a further increase in arrivals to 55,306 and 60,639 departures translating into an average of 3,864 passengers per day. However, this is still far below the pre-covid period.
The cargo section has also continued to record some robust growth. Entebbe International Airport recorded an increase in cargo handled from 59,000 metric tonnes in 2020 to 67,000 metric tonnes of cargo in 2021 for both exports and imports.
Currently, Uganda has 24 licensed air operators carrying out air services as scheduled passenger and/or cargo, non-scheduled passenger and/or cargo, private, training and aerial works, according to Zubair Musoke, a member of the UCAA board in charge of Air Services Licensing Committee.
He said the entry of the four airlines seeking to operate international scheduled services to and from Entebbe will increase the number of airlines operating in Uganda’s air space to 17.
Musoke, meanwhile, urged licenced operators serving domestic and international routes to synergize through airline cooperative arrangements like codeshare agreements, with Uganda Airlines and other international air operators in order to increase connectivity and stimulate the growth of air passenger and cargo traffic in Uganda.