Uganda Airlines confirms long-haul strategy

The airline intends to connect the East African country with four destinations in the UK, United Arab Emirates, China and India.

Uganda Airlines has outlined plans to begin long-haul flying and identified an inaugural network of four routes. 

The national carrier, which was established in 2019, intends to start serving London, Dubai, Guangzhou and Mumbai later this year. The planned launch comes less than three months after the delivery of the airline’s first Airbus A330neo aircraft. 

Slots have already been secured at London Heathrow (LHR) and Dubai International (DXB) for direct flights from Uganda’s main gateway Entebbe International (EBB).

In a statement, Uganda Airlines said the move follows the completion of a five-phase certification process for its new A330-800 aircraft with the Uganda Civil Aviation Authority. The carrier now has two A330-800s in its fleet alongside four Bombardier CRJ900s.

“The process of obtaining traffic rights, foreign air operator permits and landing approvals in the target destinations is progressing well,” the airline added.

Although start dates have not been confirmed for the planned long-haul routes, it is understood that flights between EBB and LHR will be 5X-weekly from March 28. 

OAG Schedules Analyser data shows that Uganda Airlines will compete with Emirates and flydubai on EDD-DXB but will be the only operator of nonstop service to London, Guangzhou and Mumbai.

Emirates currently serves EDD-DXB 5X-weekly using Boeing 777-300ER equipment, while flydubai offers daily 737-800 service. British Airways previously served EBB from LHR 4X-weekly until October 2015 when it claimed the route was "no longer commercially viable.”

As well as expanding into long-haul markets, Uganda Airlines said it also intends to grow its African network to include Accra, Addis Ababa, Goma, Harare, Johannesburg, Khartoum, Lagos, Lubumbashi and Lusaka.

Uganda Airlines received its air operator’s certificate in July 2019 and began flying commercially a month later. The revival of the country’s flag-carrier came 18 years after a previous incarnation of Uganda Airlines collapsed and five years after privately owned Air Uganda ceased operations. 

The launch of the carrier formed part of Uganda president Yoweri Museveni’s plans to grow the economic benefits from aviation and increase competition. A 20-year investment masterplan was launched in 2014 that includes redeveloping EBB so it is capable of handling 7.5 million passengers by 2033.

Photo credit: Airbus / L. Borrel

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