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Looming battle for the East African skies

Uganda Airlines needs to come up with a strategy that will enable it capture a share of the regional aviation market

Kampala, Uganda | ISAAC KHISA | A fierce battle is looming in the East African aviation market as Uganda’s national carrier, Uganda Airlines, takes to the skies on August. 28.

The Ugandan national carrier is expected to heighten competition against the Kenya Airways, RwandAir, South African Airways and Ethiopian Airlines that have dominated the region for decades.

Uganda Airlines Commercial Director, Jenifer Bamuturaki, said on August. 02 that the carrier has obtained a certificate from the  International Air Transport Association (IATA) and that the flight tickets are on sale ahead of the scheduled maiden flight to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi.

Customers have options to make payments across the region through cash, credit cards or mobile money.

Bamuturaki said the carrier plans to fly to various destinations in phases in the region, with the first phase covering Nairobi, Kilimanjaro, Juba, Bujumbura, Dar es Salaam, Mogadishu, and Mombasa.

The second phase will cover Lusaka, Johannesburg, Congo Brazzaville, Bangui, Khartoum, Kinshasa, Libreville, as well as Guangzhou, India, and London upon receiving additional aircrafts.

The carrier bought four Bombardier CRJ 900s for regional flights, two of which arrived in the country on April 24. The other two are expected next month.

However, two Airbus A330-800neos, which will be used for long haul flights are expected to be in the country between 2020 and 2021.

Uganda Airlines will operate two daily flights out of Entebbe to Nairobi and Juba at a two-month promotional fare of US$278 and US$225 for a return ticket and US$257 and US$201, respectively, for a one-way ticket.

It will fly three times weekly to Mogadishu at US$590 for a return ticket and US$448 for a one-way ticket.

Bujumbura and Mombasa will be serviced three times a week at US$292 and US$325 for a return ticket, respectively.

Dar es Salaam and Kilimanjaro, which will be serviced daily, have been put at US$286 and US$311 for a return journey and US$289 and US$290 for one – way journey, respectively. The carrier will also offer aircraft charter, holidays and safaris as well as cargo freight services.

Normal rates, however, usually range between US$300-US$400 for various destinations in the region.

This development comes as the revived Air Tanzania makes efforts to capture a share of the regional aviation business and the continent.

With a fleet of six aircrafts and two more expected before the end of the year including a Dreamliner, the Tanzanian national carrier, unveiled the Dar es Salaam-Mumbai route last month and secured a slot at the London-based Gatwick Airport.

This follows the launch of Dar es salaam-Johannesburg route in June this year. The carrier is also flying to Comoros, Entebbe, Lusaka, Harare and Bujumbura.

The older airlines, however, have had to come up with various offers to remain competitive in not only the regional aviation market but also the African market.

Kenya Airways which has had near monopoly on these routes amid complaints over exorbitant charges is as well, looking to strengthen its intercontinental, long-haul flights to the United States, Europe, Asia and West Africa.

Kenya Airways operates at least four daily flights from Nairobi to Dar es Salaam, five daily flights to Entebbe in Uganda, four daily flights to Lusaka in Zambia and at least one daily flight to the tourist town of Livingstone in Zambia also two other cities in Zambia.

In June in this year, the Kenyan carrier announced plans to double its fleet over the next five years to widen its route network.

The carrier had a fleet of 41 airplanes at the end of last year, comprising a mix of wide and narrow body Boeing planes, compared with Ethiopian which operates more than 100 planes.

In February last year, Kenya Airways low cost subsidiary, Jambo jet unveiled two-daily flights out of Entebbe.  The carrier was  in May 2016 granted regulatory approval to fly to 16 routes including Addis Ababa, Dar es Salaam, Zanzibar, Kilimanjaro, Mwanza, Kigali, Juba, Bujumbura, Hargeisa, Mogadishu, Goma, Kisangani and Moroni.

On the other hand, Ethiopian Airlines is seeking to set up hubs in southern, central and the Horn of Africa. The Addis Ababa based airline has been reviving some of the stalled national carriers, mainly in the southern Africa region where it operates a substantial number of flights.

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