Entebbe is stirring from slumber as two new carriers, SA Airlink and Air Arabia, launch routes here at a time national flag carrier, Uganda Airlines, is scheduled to commence flights to Dubai October 4.
Aviation officials are upbeat on this development and say, rather than feel that they are being crowded out by foreign careers, they see this as a revival of the aviation sector, which had a 71.5 percent tumble in 2020.
Vianney Luggya, the manager for public affairs at the Uganda Civil Aviation Authority says the experience had shown that new airlines tend to grow their own traffic.
“That is what we saw when Air Uganda entered the market in 2007. Within five years, they had grown into the biggest operator out of Entebbe by frequency and had added half a million passengers a year to our tallies and yet everyone else was growing at the same time,” Mr Luggya said.
There is hope that a surge in the number of routes out of Entebbe, driven by the entry of new operators, will push the country’s aviation sector out of the doldrums. Passenger numbers dropped from 1.98 million arrivals in 2019 to just 565,541 in 2020. Cargo defied the pandemic rising from 42,000 metric tonnes in 2019 to 58,898 tonnes last year.
“We have a different model from existing operators and our studies of this market over the past five years, show that there is still plenty of room for growth in traffic,” says Abdisalam Ibrahim, Air Arabia’s General Sales Agent for eastern Africa.
The airline hopes that connecting Uganda to its five hubs in the Middle East and North Africa, will stimulate new travel by offering onward lift beyond Sharjah.
The Sharjah-based low-cost Air Arabia will launch a three times a week direct between Entebbe and Sharjah, opening a second landing point in the UAE for travellers from Uganda.
Cape Town-based SA Airlink commenced flights to Entebbe on September 19. With connections to 45 destinations in 12 African countries, SA Airlink is also expected to market Uganda as a destination, attracting more travellers to Uganda.