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Uganda Airlines Downplays Impact of Kenya Airways-SA Airways Merger

Yogi Biriggwa the former CEO South African Airlines in Uganda, says Uganda Airlines needs a competent board of directors and staff. "Uganda Airlines must be operated like a business and people including crew members must be recruited on merit to attract passengers and make profits."
The 4 CRJ900 Bombadier aircrafts for Uganda Airlines parked at the Entebbe Airport Main Runway

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The Acting CEO of Uganda Airlines, Jenifer Bamuturaki Musiime, has today downplayed the impact of a merger of operations between Kenyan Airways (KQ) and South African Airways (SAA).

This stems from a December 30th, 2021 announcement by Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta on the merger between the two national airlines. It is part of the plan for  launching a  'Pan-African Airlines' by 2023.

SAA ceased all it's commercial flights including from and to Uganda in early 2020 due to financial and human resource mismanagement. At the time, the Ugandan government was mooting plans to revive the national carrier that had collapsed in 2001. 

However, Uganda Airlines was revived and commenced flights in August 2020. It also started  direct flights to Johannesburg, South Africa in May 2021. 

SAA had monopoly of direct Johannesburg flights for close to 15 years until Airlink also launched direct flights on the same route. 

Now, with the company tying up a deal with Kenya that is aimed at helping the two regain their regional market dominance,  airlines like Uganda Airlines that operates four weekly flights to South Africa and other nine regional routes are expected to get affected.

However, while addressing the media on Thursday in Kampala, Bamuturaki said the merger is not a threat to Uganda Airlines. She also talked  about the airline's operations last year and prospects for 2022.

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Bamuturaki however says it is important to sign interline agreements with Airlink and other airlines like SAA to cut on operational costs for the same routes.

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Bamuturaki says the airline is in the process of completing two interline agreements with global players UAE-based Emirates, Qatar Airlines so that they can connect their passengers to onward Uganda Airlines flights. This as the airline plans to launch direct  international flights to cities in India, China, and Europe in 2022.

The company has entered deals with Air Tanzania and Precision Airlines, also of Tanzania to help Uganda Airlines increase it's competitiveness, ticket sales and seamless travel for passengers with the region. 

Bamuturaki says the airline's expansion plans for the first two years were affected by the outbreak of COVID-19. According to the business plan, the Airline was expected to operate 18 routes, both within and outside  the  African continent. 

However, following the outbreak of Covid-19 and the ever-changing travel restrictions, the airline is operating eleven routes with only a few meeting the revenue targets.  

Samuel Mayanja, the acting Director Finance at Uganda Airlines says in the last six months, the airline carried 98,760 passengers, translating into 64.5percent of the revenue target. Some of the least performing routes are Mogadishu and Juba. Mogadishu route made a loss of 780,000 US Dollars about shillings 2.7 billion while Juba made a loss of 900,000 US Dollars, about shillings 3.1 billion due to changes in the number of flights operated between July to December 2021.

Bamuturaki says that  the airline reduced number of flights to some of the routes such as Mogadishu and Juba due to reduced bookings and yet the business plan indicates three to two daily flights. She added that  even the lunch hour flight for Nairobi have never been operated due to low passenger demand. 

As a result, she says the Airline is reconsidering it's business plan and undertaking feasibility studies to cities on the planned international routes to assess whether or not the company can make profits during the pandemic.

Among the opportunities is by acquiring mid-range aircrafts to operate Johannesburg  flights to address baggage and cargo limitations on the 76-seater CRJ-900 planes.

Meanwhile, Yogi Biriggwa the former CEO South African Airlines in Uganda, says Uganda Airlines needs a competent board of directors and staff. "Uganda Airlines must be operated like a business and people including crew members must be recruited on merit to attract passengers and make profits."

She adds that Johannesburg is a lucrative route for business people, tourists and students. "Uganda Airlines should ensure that passengers' issues like missing baggage is addressed in a timely manner because these are the things that bring sleepless nights for managers."

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