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Uganda Airlines resumes flights to Nairobi with international destinations in sight

AFRICA
By Joe Ombuor | October 2nd 2020
Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA) Director-General Gilbert Kibe. [David Njaaga/Standard]

Uganda Airlines is poised to be the first African carrier to own Airbus A330-800 when two aircrafts on order are delivered later this year. The long haul planes that cost US$259.9 million apiece will join the initial fleet of four medium-haul CRJ 900 jets.

Airline’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Mr Cornell Muleya revealed this in Nairobi during the resumption of flights from Entebbe to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) on Thursday. He said the airline had identified London, Dubai, Guangzhou and Mumbai for international flights outside Africa once the new aircrafts are delivered.

“We are back to the skies with big plans in the wake of Covid-19 disruptions and closure of our Entebbe hub that has lasted seven months,” he said.

Mr Muleya said Johannesburg, Lusaka, Kinshasa, Harare and Goma, as well as destinations in West Africa were on the airline’s radar as the crane as the airline is popularly known spreads its wings across Africa.

“We want to redefine the industry within Africa and for that, we need partnerships to market Africa as the safest destination to visit in the COVID era,” he said.

The Director-General of Kenya Airports Authority Captain Gilbert Kibe urged African States to do more business among them to boost the airlines hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. He described as pity the fact that close to 60 percent of business by African states went to countries outside the continent.

“We can only prosper better and help our airlines fly higher through increased intra-Africa business,’ he said and gave the big volume of trade between Kenya and Uganda as a good example that ought to be emulated.

Kibe said harmonized protocols in the travel industry were necessary for recovery. “Protocols must be adhered to, but let them be uniform instead of countries applying widely divergent rules. This virus is here for the long haul, hence the need to relax some of the protocols,” he said adding that aircrafts were the most unlikely places to contract the virus.

African Airlines Association (AFRAA) Secretary General Abderahmane Berthé hailed the resumption of flights, saying it would give a lifeline to an estimated 3.1 million jobs in Africa and US$27.9 billion for African economies that have greatly suffered adverse COVID-19 effects.

He disclosed that AFRAA had developed recovery plans for the industry including financial support to enable airlines meet their liquidity needs.

Mr Berthé urged African Governments to compensate and subsidize airlines for losses and to reduce exogenous operating costs during these difficult times.

He called on financial institutions, country development partners and international donors to support African airlines through grants and cash flow assistance.

“I urge African airlines to cooperate for a quick rebound in the wake of COVID-19 setbacks,” he pleaded.

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