Gulf Air off to rocky start in Kampala


UGANDA (eTN) – A recent seminar for a very select group of agents and press conference for equally select media representatives by Gulf Air (GF) in Kampala seems to have served little purpose other than exposing the state of un-readiness, as emails obtained by this correspondent between travel agents and the airline also confirm.

Mr. Ameen Saki Qasim, Commercial Manager Uganda, Gulf Air, denied that Gulf Air was an “offline parachute airline” as agents had put it to him, but had to concede that only a few weeks ahead of the planned start of flights to Entebbe, no General Sales Agent had been appointed yet nor had an office been opened.

“We will soon be announcing our call center number to all our business partners in Uganda in a few days time” was another statement taken from an email, which was in response to questions posed by dozens of travel agents who also claimed that “most agents are already activated and have started issuing tickets on GF plates.”

This was seen as a most astonishing statement, though, considering the part of another email which invited agents, in the absence of an office and a call center number, to “Please email all your waitlisted booking to us for confirmation, in case you are finding it difficult to get seats for any sector in your GDS system.”

In another statement, the same email also claims to “gradually increase to daily services from Entebbe” – something which, considering Gulf Air’s past hasty withdrawal from Uganda a few years ago and the state of preparedness for the inaugural flight at this stage just 5 weeks away, produced more than a few “oh really now” comments from agents polled on the subject.

The entire spat seems to have incensed some of the leading travel agents to no end with some saying that with the choice of Emirates’ daily wide-body flight to Dubai and with highly-rated Qatar Airways commencing operations next week with daily flights, they would adopt a wait-and-see attitude. Some conceded they would offer their clients the option of Gulf should, in view of all of this confusion, the startup fares really be “throw away,” as one regular contributor said they would have to be to make an impact.

Getting passengers into those seats suddenly seems to have become so much more difficult for Gulf Air, but even empty seats deserve good wishes for “Happy Landings.”