Entebbe, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Uganda Airlines, the national flag carrier expects to commence its self-handling project by October, according to the airline’s Acting Ground Operations Manager Richard Kinalwa.
Under self-handling, the aircraft operator directly provides one or more categories of ground handling services without engaging a third party for the provision of such service. The services include aircraft refuelling, towing, marshalling and parking, ramp services, as well as luggage handling, among others.
The services are currently provided by DAS Handling Ltd, an independent ground handling service provider based at Entebbe International Airport, at a cost of USD 250,000 (970 million Shillings, a month.
But according to Kinalwa, Uganda Airlines has now recruited 160 staff for the self-handling project. These include passenger handlers, drivers, cleaners, equipment mechanics and operators and cleaners who are currently undergoing on-job training by DAS Handling Ltd to ensure a smooth transition.
Uganda Airlines has also bought four ground power units, one air start unit, four portable aircraft steps to enable passengers to board and disembark, four conveyor belts, one lavatory servicing truck and 50 baggage carts. The airline is awaiting the delivery of two passenger vans to transport passengers from the passenger terminal to the aircraft steps.
Kinalwa made the statement on Thursday while addressing members of the physical infrastructure commitee of parliament who were touring the airline’s offices at Entebbe International Airport. He, however, added that the airline is yet to get permission from Uganda Civil Aviation Authority to kickstart the self-handling project. UCAA has to among others approve the airline’s ground handling operations manual and minimum equipment manual.
But while awaiting approval, Eng. Joseph Lukwago, the Maintenance Manager of the airline says they will set up a maintenance workshop and stores at the self-handling yard located on the landside of Entebbe International Airport. Lukwago noted that the airline will take over aircraft maintenance from foreign firms effective February next year.
Last month, Ephraim Bagenda, the airline’s Director of Engineering and Maintenance at Uganda Airlines, said a total of USD 2.5 million has been invested to buy the self-handling equipment, and recruit and train staff.
Uganda Airlines CEO Jenniffer Bamutaraki says the national carrier joins Emirates, KLM, Ethiopian Airlines and other airlines that provide their own ground handling services. She added that it was important for the committee members to tour the airline’s offices in Entebbe to get a sneak peek into its operations and challenges.
Bamutaraki added that the airline now needs to recruit at least ten flight captains to ensure there are no flight disruptions. She attributed recent flight delays and cancellations to inadequate human resources.
David Karubanga, the Chairperson of the Physical Infrastructure committee says the committee will engage UCAA and the Ministry of Finance over the matter as well as the timely release of funds to Uganda Airlines. The airline was allocated 85 billion Shillingsor this financial year to among others buy a spare engine for the CRJ900 aircraft.
Uganda Airlines currently has a fleet of six aircraft and operates flights to eleven destinations. These include Nairobi, Kinshasa, Johannesburg, Mombasa and Dubai as the only international route.