Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Uganda Airlines is busy with startup activities amidst the nationwide lockdown and global travel restrictions, according to management. President, Yoweri Museveni banned both incoming and outgoing passenger flights at Entebbe International Airport on March 25th 2020 as part of the measures to curb the spread of the Coronavirus disease-COVID-19.
As a result, Uganda Airlines grounded its four CRJ900 Bombardier aircrafts. However, Cornwell Muleya, the Chief Executive Officer Uganda Airlines, says despite halting flights, the company isn’t redundant. He says they carrying out the other activities in the first phase of reviving the national carrier.
This phase involves among others, assessing the need to revive the airline, establishing and reviewing route performance, staff recruitment, procurement of fleet and launching of flights. Muleya says they are currently busy with among others, staff recruitment, system installations and preparations to expand destination routes both short and long haul. Since August 2019, the airline was making about 50 flights a week, with a daily average of five flights per plane.
The airline was flying to 8 destinations including Kigali, Mombasa, Nairobi, Mogadishu, Juba and Bujumbura. The airline was also expected to fly to five other regional destinations including Lusaka, Johannesburg, Khartoum, Cairo and Harare by June this year.
However, this has been put on halt. It also expects to add international connection routes such as London, Dubai and the Chinese market in Guangzhou after receiving two A330-800 Neo Aircrafts from Airbus this December. As a result, the company wants to recruit additional 100 staff including pilots, flight engineers and other support staff to meet demand for future expansion. There are currently a total of 150 staff including the 24 pilots for the four aircrafts.
Muleya also says they are negotiating with service providers for ground handling and catering among others in the proposed destination routes. Though the aircrafts are grounded, the company is carrying out routine maintenance.
The company released a promotional video on Friday, where Eng. Ephraim Bagenda, the Director Maintenance and Engineering, said during maintenance they open up the aircrafts, run the engines and do system checks, correct any detected defects so that the aircrafts are ready for service when the shutdown is lifted.
Muleya says the company is not worried about financial losses incurred during the lockdown because it is saving on flight related costs such as fuel and ground handling. It has also received funding from government to run its other activities this financial year.
Parliament allocated Shillings 258.5 billion for the airlines to kick-start its operations in the financial year 2019-2020. The airline expects to spend at least Shillings 59.2 billion on fuel, Shillings 32 billion on ground handling fees and Shillings 14.6 million for passenger handling among others.
Government is expected to capitalize the airline for its first seven years. The airline has running contracts for fuel and servicing running for between 5 to 7 years, which management has to renegotiate since the aircrafts are grounded.