Air Uganda to introduce newer aircraft


Usually well-informed sources have given the clearest indication yet that Air Uganda will very soon introduce newer aircraft of the Bombardier CRJ type, a remarkable turnaround for the airline, considering that their initial start up (and long gone) CEO had rubbished the plane type and opted for the loss-making MD 87, which according to his comments at the time, “he understood,” while obviously not understanding the CRJ, a remark found hilarious by other members of the aviation fraternity when they were told. The “Italian Job” obviously did not work out financially (or otherwise), and the three ageing MD 87s Air Uganda was saddled with are now on the way out to the relief of many of the loyal Ugandan staff in Kampala and Entebbe.
The airline is reported to have run up substantial losses since commencing flights – made worse by initially starting with jet aviation stone age DC 9s – as their MD 87 aircraft predictably proved too expensive and large to operate on most of their routes. Word in Kampala’s market observer circles is that there is a staggering two-digit million, US-dollar loss run up since the end 2007, although this would not be confirmed from the company directly. It is again according to usually well-informed sources, that only their Juba flights make money and produce good load factors, while the Nairobi route, in spite of dropping the morning flight at the height of the fuel price rises last year, continues to operate in the red, as do their Dar es Salaam, Zanzibar flights. However, the airline is presently engaged in a market drive to add passengers on all routes ahead of the launch of the CRJs, making the change of aircraft the lynchpin to grab a market share back from their competitors.
The use of this type of aircraft will, in fact, permit Air Uganda to resume their morning flight to Nairobi and even target Kigali, from where RwandAir now operates, with as many as three daily flights using the CRJ and its sister craft, the Dash 8. Other destinations could be Goma in the eastern Congo, from where they could feed traffic via Entebbe into their own network and for Brussels Airlines and with whom they codeshare the Juba route already – a route where easily a second daily flight can now be put on the drawing board, which would benefit travelers enormously and has reflected growing passenger numbers over the past months.
Prospects for Air Uganda remain hopeful with all underlying factors generally positive, and the present interim CEO Hugh Fraser, formerly commercial director at Kenya Airways, has decidedly put the ship on level keel again. His predecessor, Peter de Wal, had fallen foul of the impact of wrong decisions taken by his own predecessor, the board, and the principal owners, and, therefore, during a time of turmoil for aviation last year, never managed to turn things around in the short time he was given. In fact, there is already talk in town that Hugh Fraser may seek to stay on and become substantive CEO, which would without doubt contribute much to the positive development of Air Uganda.