African aviation on the abyss


KAMPALA, Uganda (eTN) – With aviation fuel prices in Entebbe now standing at US$1.17 per liter of JetA1 and an astonishing US$2.38 per liter of AVGAS, worries among aviation staff are spreading as the future of some airlines seems more than uncertain now.

MK Airlines, a cargo airline operating to and from Entebbe – using B747-200F’s and DC8F’s – in fact earlier in the month had all their flights halted by the administrators and managed as a last ditch stop gap measure to raise some more funds from investors. The extra money, however, is not primarily aimed at paying the ever increasing fuel bills and other outstandings, but mainly towards a fleet overhaul to expire the fuel guzzling “old-timers” presently dominating their fleet.

MK is now operating many of the routes previously flown by DAS Air Cargo, which went into administration too last year and has since then not operated under its previous format.

The same stark reality is now also roaming the executive offices of other airlines in the region, in particular smaller carriers with only one or two aged aircraft, where the cost of fuel has now reached such percentages in the overall airline cost, that it all but threatens their very financial existence and survival.

Charter flying for tourists to the national parks, in Uganda and across the entire region, is said to have become more and more expensive too, largely driven by the cost of AVGAS and safari- and tour operators have raised some vain complaints about the fuel prices, which will ultimately have no effect at all, as their own vehicle operations, too, are now facing petrol price increases.

The cost of fuel is now exceeding Uganda Shillings 2.700 for the first time in non-crisis times (about US$1.72 per liter), while diesel prices are almost at par now. 2008 is now thought to pose the biggest challenges to aviation and tourism since 9/11 and if the prices for food, energy and fuels continue to rise at the present rate, it may well result in a recession induced sharp reduction in global travel.