(eTN) – Usually well-informed sources within Uganda’s aviation fraternity have given the clearest indication yet that Air Uganda (U7) will widen their reach, true to their slogan “We are the Wings that connect East Africa” and offer flights, initially three times a week, between Entebbe and Bujumbura. From apparently the end of October, U7 will operate a 0900 departure every Monday and Wednesday from Entebbe to Bujumbura via Kigali, using their CRJ 200 aircraft, before returning nonstop to Entebbe. On Fridays the order will be reversed, when a 1430 hours departure will fly nonstop to Bujumbura, before later in the afternoon coming back via Kigali.
The same source also confirmed that come the end of November, additional changes on the Air Uganda network will come into effect. First will be a “truly daily flight” between Entebbe and Dar es Salaam, where the present gap on Saturdays will be closed, while from December onwards, Juba will see a second flight come online, initially on Fridays only, before upping frequencies on that route by February 2012 on two more traffic days, to be advised nearer to the time.
Considering the recent momentum in Eastern Africa’s aviation industry, where Kenya Airways, RwandAir, and Precision Air have made all the positive headlines, it is now Air Uganda’s turn to have aviation observers and analysts sit up and take notice.
Air Uganda is operating two CRJ 200 aircraft leased from GECAS and one MD87 as a back-up aircraft, which is, however, regularly deployed on the route to Juba where loadfactors remain high, necessitating the use of the much larger MD 87.
Owned by the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development, under the Aga Khan Development Network, the airline commenced operations towards the end of 2007. Initially troubled by management turbulences, the airline finally found its footing when former Kenya Airways Commercial Director Hugh Fraser took the helm, replacing the hapless Italian management seconded to U7 by Meridiana at the time of startup, which was thought to have been largely responsible for the initial losses the airline incurred before the turnaround was accomplished by reverting to the initially-outlined strategy of using smaller and more economical jets.
Information was also received this morning that Air Uganda is presently hosting an international audit team, which is in country to assess the state of preparations of U7 towards final certification under IATA’s operational safety audits.
IOSA is arguably the gold standard for airlines as far as safety is concerned, and international cooperation with other airlines, including codeshare arrangements, are now often made contingent on IOSA certification by the global aviation giants, before letting their passengers fly with third-party airlines beyond their own hubs and destinations. This is a global development but particularly pertinent in Africa, where aviation has an unenviable safety record in countries like Congo DR and the Republic of the Sudan affecting the standing and reputation of aviation in general, justified or not.
Details ascertained from a regular source in Entebbe also confirmed that the audit team has been on site since Monday this week, and is due to finalize their reviews and interviews by end of business on Friday. The result of the audit will then be communicated to IATA’s relevant department, which will in turn formally advise applicant, Air Uganda, of any measures required to be addressed and the time frames given, before a final audit will then establish when, rather than if, IOSA certification can be granted to U7. This is expected to be achieved by sometime in 2012 according to other usually well-informed sources close to the airline.
This development is a major step by Air Uganda to enter the “big leagues” and while not by the size of their fleet at least by the level of quality matching that of already certified and re-certified other airlines flying in the East African region.