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New national airline for Uganda?

ATC News by Wolfgang H. Thome

President Yoweri Museveni, when addressing the first cabinet meeting of his new government, reportedly told them that ‘because our brothers in Ethiopia, Kenya and South Africa let us down‘ the formation of a national airline was now a priority. (Read FULL Museveni speech here)

When the former Uganda Airlines was finally dissolved it was because the carrier was broke and had been stripped of its cash cows like a ground handling monopoly, handed to a local consortium while the other profit making arm, the ownership of the local Galileo franchise, too eventually went into private hands.

No investors could be found at the time, as suitors swiftly discovered that all they would get was a debt ridden empty shell with no aircraft and few other assets.

Years later came the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development, set up Air Uganda and was after seven years of operations nearing break even point, when the Ugandan Civil Aviation Authority killed them off, as amply explained here at the time. That in fact happened at a time when the Ugandan government had the offer on the table to invest into the airline and turn it into a quasi if not real national carrier.

While government pondered the offer the Uganda CAA did dirty work and – allegedly to escape ICAO sanctions – pulled the international AOC’s of all Uganda registered airlines, at one stage citing safety concerns.

This however was swiftly dismissed as a fairy tale and smoke screen as domestic operations by some of the affected airlines like the Aero Club in Entebbe, Ndege Juu in Kajjansi and of Eagle Air from Entebbe were allowed to continue even though they could not fly across the national borders.

Over 230 highly qualified employees of Air Uganda lost their jobs and connections to Nairobi, Juba, Kigali, Bujumbura, Dar es Salaam, Kilimanjaro, Mombasa and Mogadishu literally vanished overnight leading to a scramble for seats and substantially higher fares.

Insider information suggests that a group of international aviation investors is considering the setting up of a new airline based in Entebbe, but given the trend of rising crude oil prices, the cost of new aircraft – the airline would need both short / medium haul and long haul equipment to face the competition – and the globally emerging lack of pilots meeting the required standards, this will be a mammoth task to accomplish.

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