Air service license meeting in Uganda receives major objections


UGANDA (eTN) – The recent 34th Air Service Licensing Committee meeting in Uganda conducted the business of receiving applications from a range of new applicants, many of whom are located in neighboring Kenya and Tanzania and are trying to establish branches in Uganda as well. A few key stakeholders, like Eagle Air and Mission Aviation Fellowship, also applied for renewal of their existing licenses for the maximum term of 5 years and were so granted, according to a well-placed source.

However, the air operators located in Kajjansi also filed objections against the applications from Kenyan and Tanzanian firms, citing a range of issues including lack of reciprocity, demanding that this issue be urgently addressed in the forthcoming Council of Ministers Meetings of the East African Community in Arusha next week. The Licensing Committee of the Civil Aviation Authority Board was also told that in view of the current lull in oil exploration, business utilization of existing fleets was not at its optimum and added competition would likely only result in undercutting by new entrants trying to secure business that way instead of finding new business in the market.

The respective applicants were, needless to say, less than amused over what one applicant called an “ambush,” claiming that they never did receive the letter of objection and could not adequately prepare for a response in good time, a claim found hard to believe as this correspondent had seen the letter several days in advance of the scheduled hearing.

It was also noted that some of the applicants for new licenses verbally mentioned they would like to commence operations within two weeks of being granted an Air Service License, obviously and blissfully unaware of the minimum timeframe of 90 days to additionally apply for and obtain certification as an Air Operator by getting their AOC issued, leave alone the fact that current regulations stipulate that any new applicant for an AOC has to conduct at least 75 hours of supervised test flights to the destinations listed in the application for an ASL.

In addition, there was general criticism of new applicants listing very aged aircraft like the DC9-30 series and DC 10-30s first generation, which were pollution intense in both fume emissions and noise emissions alike, expensive to operate, and equally expensive to maintain. None of those operators, however, was willing to go on record and answer questions to the effect as to why they would wish to come to Uganda with aged aircraft and if they considered Uganda a dumping ground for old aircraft. It was also ascertained that some applicants had formed their airline companies only weeks before the application hearing and had a paid-up share capital of only 5 million Uganda Shillings, equivalent to only about US$2,200, which prompted some intense questioning by members of the licensing panel, again with some answers less than satisfactory.