Saudia To Open New East Africa Link

The planned launch of flights between Riyadh and Entebbe comes as Saudi Arabia and Uganda seek to strengthen ties. 

Credit: Katumba Badru Sultan/AFP/Getty Images

Saudi Arabia and Uganda are set to be connected by nonstop scheduled flights from February with the launch of a new route by Saudia.

The SkyTeam alliance member intends to begin service between its base at Riyadh’s King Khalid International (RUH) and Entebbe (EBB), located in central Uganda about 36 km southwest of capital city Kampala.

The 3,164-km route will open on Feb. 2 with two round trips per week using Airbus A330 aircraft, becoming the only scheduled service between the two countries. The flight time will be 5 hr. 5 min. on the outbound leg from Riyadh and 4 hr. 40 min. on the return.

Saudia originally mooted plans last September to start flying to Entebbe later in the year, but the launch failed to materialize. However, tickets are now on sale. Entebbe becomes Saudia's fourth destination in East Africa, joining Addis Ababa (ADD), Mauritius (MRU) and Nairobi (NBO).

The new connection comes amid strengthening relations between Saudi Arabia and Uganda that have included the signing of a memorandum of understanding to deepen cooperation last October.

At the time, Uganda’s foreign minister Abubaker Jeje Odongo called on Saudi Arabia to consider importing more products from Uganda, such as fruit, vegetables, spices and milk. He also urged the Middle Eastern country’s government to evaluate new investment opportunities in Uganda, with particular focus on the agriculture, mining and tourism industries.

In addition, it has been reported that the countries have signed an agreement designed to better protect the rights of Ugandan migrant workers in Saudi Arabia. It is estimated that there are more than 80,000 Ugandans working in Saudi Arabia, many of them as maids.

According to data provided by Sabre Market Intelligence, O&D traffic between Saudi Arabia and Uganda totaled 23,000 two-way passengers during 2019, with Dubai (DXB), Addis Ababa and Cairo (CAI) the biggest connecting markets.

Once Saudia begins the RUH-EBB route, it will become the third new route linking Uganda and destinations in the Middle East since October 2021. On Oct. 4, Uganda Airlines launched flights between Entebbe and Dubai (DXB), while Air Arabia inaugurated Sharjah (SHJ)-Entebbe on Oct. 12.