While we look for the money to secure the budget to finance the revival of Uganda airlines, domestic start could get us up quicker
AIRLINES | REVIVAL
By Simon J. Mone
For over 15 years and still counting, Uganda has been without a national airline. This has left its citizens with a costly option, of buying air tickets from foreign airlines. It means that even at high costs, citizens have no alternatives.
Recent news that Uganda is readying itself to delve into the business once again is music to many ears. As recreating what has been defunct for a while is a good thing. This is only the beginning. Everything else begins with a dream. So, Ugandans should be happy that sooner or later, the national airline will be up and about again. We all cannot wait to experience the feeling.
Upon commencement of operations, expect the benefits to be handy for all stakeholders; the Government, airports, aviation regulators and the local citizens. All of us will have a bite of the cherry. Various sources now report that, the Government of Uganda is seeking to raise $388m to go towards the revival of Uganda airlines by September, 2018. It is an ambitious statement made by Uganda’s Cabinet. But it is one whose fruits we eagerly await.
In the meantime, as we wait to hit the ground running with the national airline, here is an opinion. I urge the Government to start small, with domestic operations. While we look for the money to secure the budget to finance the revival of Uganda airlines, domestic start could get us up quicker. It is more realistic to purchase affordable number of light-weight aircraft, like Cessna, and position them along the various routes across Uganda.
Already, there is a significant amount of movements by tourists to those destinations. The tourism industry that has been cherished a lot in the recent past would be the biggest beneficiary of such an arrangement. Upon arrival at Entebbe, tourists are then transported to upcountry stations faster, avoiding the stressful 41 km ride between Entebbe and Kampala, and another seven on the road upcountry.
Domestic operations will also boom businesses across the country. Instead of spending long hours on buses, this option can get people faster to their destinations. Comparing with the time taken to travel by road, it is, therefore, realistic to say, domestic air travel would be a success, depending on the cost that will be charged.
The Government already owns 12 aerodromes in the country that are all serviceable, and spends a lot of money annually to maintain them. So the airport infrastructure exists already and is ready for domestic operations. Starting with domestic operations will not only help in faster movements across the country, but will also teach more local people to be resilient to economic, political, financial and social upheavals that major airlines face on the international stage. It will also provide employment of more people directly and also indirectly. Therefore, we should be careful with this dream start of a thing where many airlines are struggling. And especially at a time when we do not seem to know where the solution to corruption is going to come from. And all the other reasons that led to the collapse of the airline in the past. Domestic operations would be the perfect appraisal of our ability to stabilise as we enter into a very competitive industry.
Among the beneficiaries also would include upcountry aerodromes whose facilities will not be redundant for most times of the year. Maintenance and repair of aircraft services would be required. Training organisations would train industry personnel to manage their facilities.
I strongly recommend the idea of starting with domestic operations. This puts us in position to refrain from the past mistakes. It offers a good opportunity to sustain operations of this very sensitive industry.
The writer is a civil engineer