Uganda’s national carrier on Monday made its maiden trip to Dubai, the first intercontinental flight for the carrier since it was revamped two years ago.
Uganda Airlines officials told The EastAfrican that the destination is popular with Ugandan travellers who go there for both business and leisure.
Officials say Dubai is a lucrative route.
Before the Covid-19 pandemic, Dubai was one of the most preferred destinations for most Ugandan travellers, according to Uganda Civil Aviation Authority (UCAA).
It remains a popular route out of Uganda.
“The UAE, and most especially Dubai, is important for both the formal and informal trade for Uganda. So we hope to tap into that demand for traders travelling to the middle and Far East,” an official at the airline said.
The official added that considering Dubai’s strategic location, Uganda Airlines hopes to tap into the connectivity that the destination offers into Europe, the far West and Far East through signing interline agreements with bigger players operating in Dubai.
“Our Interline agreement with Emirates opens up opportunities for the traveller on Uganda Airlines to fly to any Emirates destination while also generating opportunities in East, Central and Southern Africa,” the official noted.
Last month, the UAE took Uganda off its Red List, allowing the airline to proceed with plans to fly to Dubai.
According to the Uganda Civil Aviation Authority, 5,800 passengers were flying from Entebbe to Dubai every month by 2017. The number is believed to have increased, according to spokesman Mr Vianney Lugya.
Uganda Airlines is currently plying regional routes using four bombardier CRJ900 crafts.
For months, it has been planning to embark on long haul routes after it acquired two bigger Airbus A330neo crafts.
In addition to its already existing regional network, the airline planned to fly to Guangzhou, Dubai, London and Mumbai by September but a series of issues made it postpone its plans to between October this year and early next year.
Initially, the airline had not acquired the Air Operating Certificate (AOC) for its new two Airbus crafts from the regulator, the Uganda Civil Aviation Authority, which left the two crafts grounded at Entebbe Airport. The Airline got the AOC early last month.
Also, the UAE and the UK, to which the airline intended to fly, had put Uganda on their Red Lists following a spike in Covid.
Uganda still has India on its Red List to control importation of coronavirus variants, making the airline delay the launch of its flights to Mumbai.
On September 28, Foreign Affairs Minister Gen Jeje Odongo said Uganda Airlines will fly to Guangzhou once regulatory procedures are completed. He spoke during virtual celebrations for the 72nd Anniversary of the Founding of the People’s Republic of China.
Works and Transport Minister Gen Katumba Wamala earlier told The EastAfrican that talks are still ongoing to acquire bilateral air agreements to allow the airline land in Guangzhou.
Before Uganda Airlines became defunct, it flew to several international destinations. After it was revamped in 2019, it began flying regional routes with plans to get on more intercontinental routes -- it has launched the first route to Dubai.
Currently, the airline plies regional routes to Dar es Salaam, Juba, Kilimanjaro, Mogadishu, Mombasa, Nairobi and Zanzibar. Others are Harare, Kinshasa and Johannesburg.