Plans are underway to reinstate the defunct Uganda Airlines, in a move geared at boosting tourism and trade, Saturday Vision has learnt.The draft proposal on how the airline will conduct its business is being discussed by experts in the transport ministry, according to sources. The document will so
By Brian Mayanja
Plans are underway to reinstate the defunct Uganda Airlines, in a move geared at boosting tourism and trade, Saturday Vision has learnt.
The draft proposal on how the airline will conduct its business is being discussed by experts in the transport ministry, according to sources. The document will soon be discussed by Cabinet.
Among the issues experts want Cabinet to consider is whether Uganda Airlines should be 100% government-owned or be under a public-private partnership.
Experts argued that Uganda Airlines can operate like Ethiopian Airways, Air Tanzania, Rwanda Air and British Airways, which are government-owned, or Kenya Airways, which is a joint-venture between the Royal Dutch Airlines, KLM and the Kenyan government. The proposal also highlights internal and external routes, which Uganda Airlines will use.
Sources revealed that private operators are seeking partnership with the Government to re-establish a national airline.
Works and transport minister Abraham Byandala confirmed that the matter was being discussed within his ministry.
“I will soon present to Cabinet the viability proposal of Government to engage in the airline business. Members will have to discuss and pass it,” Byandala said.
He, however, declined to comment on when Uganda Airlines would resume business or how long it would take for the airline to start operations after a Cabinet approval.
Project near fruition
One of the experts in the transport ministry, who preferred anonymity, said the Uganda Airlines project was near fruition and could materialise before the end of the year.
“The political will is enormous. Most Cabinet ministers will back it once it is presented before them. They are even blaming us for taking long to handle the issue. They say Uganda Airlines is a symbol of national pride,” a source said.
Airfields under renovation
Byandala told Saturday Vision that the Government had embarked on expanding and renovating airfields in Kasese, Arua and Gulu for internal operations.
Recently, works state minister Eng. John Byabagambi said the Government must consider a national carrier not just as a business, but as infrastructure, like a road commuting through the air.
On whether Uganda Airlines would retain the cargo handling operations at Entebbe Airport, now managed by Entebbe Handling Services (Enhas), Byandala said he did not think it was necessary. Not all airlines handle cargo, he said. “It may not handle cargo. The decision also lies with the Civil Aviation Authority, the regulator,” Byandala said.
He added that the airline still owns its international routes and refuted earlier reports that the Government sold the routes to Kenya Airways.
“Uganda Airlines will reclaim its external routes. Last week, I was in Ethiopia discussing issues related to routes,” he revealed.
About staffing, Byandala said they had pilots and engineers and that three years from now, the airlines would have recruited staff.
How it collapsed
Uganda Airlines collapsed 13 years ago due to bankruptcy and debt. Since 2008, the Government has been planning to revive the national carrier. Experts say the airline collapsed due to Government’s failure to support it to develop Entebbe International Airport as its hub, and the sale of its ground handling business to Enhas.
To start a hub, experts say Uganda needs to set up five aircrafts, three of which would ply regional routes, while others take longer ones.
Attempts to privatise the airline to revive its profitability and competitiveness failed. Initially, Air Mauritius, Inter Air, Kenya Airways and Sabena expressed interest, but later declined to submit bids. This left only South African Airways (SAA) by 1999, which also lost interest, forcing the Government to liquidate the airline in 2001.
Uganda Airlines was formed after the collapse of the East African Airways in 1976, due to political squabbles among the East African Community leaders. Member states were forced to start national carriers. Uganda Airlines and Kenya Airways started operations in 1977.
Govt to revive Uganda Airlines