By Joshua Walakira
The emergency of Bobi Wine (the politician) and the subsequent torture allegations no doubt dented Uganda’s image and it was widely feared that the country was going to become less attractive to foreign travelers. But the latest information from Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), the government agency charged with regulating aviation matters, shows that (to the contrary) the year 2018 has seen aviation traffic through the Entebbe International Airport spectacularly grow. According to CAA Public Affairs Manager Vianney Luggya, the January-August 2018 records show that passenger traffic through Entebbe is exceeding 2017’s by 121,810. Luggya says that whereas the year 2017 (January-August) had 1,070,595 international and transit passengers come through Entebbe, 2018’s first 8 months (January to August) have already surpassed that record by registering 1,192,405 passengers. This clearly shows the 2017 passenger figure being exceeded by 121,810 passengers. This is indicative of the fact that the reforms the CAA management has been undertaking are beginning to yield and thereby making Entebbe an attractive destination to many more air travel operators and airlines. Not only has the number of airlines working through Entebbe increased but even the frequency of flights through Entebbe has greatly increased. “The [passenger] figures are likely to increase even more by the end of the year  considering that the last quarter of the year [October to December] is usually busier in terms of air travel, Luggya explains.
Luggya also explains how 2018’s impressive passenger figures have come about beyond just CAA doing a good job and getting a number of regulatory practices right. Firstly Uganda (through CAA) has this year concluded new bi-lateral air service agreements with a number of countries including Saudi Arabia, Israel, Switzerland and Canada. Some of Canada’s airlines are already having code-share agreements with international operators to Uganda. Yet that isn’t all. Luggya says that Air Tanzania recently resumed operations to Uganda and discussions are ongoing with several potential air operators to Entebbe including one planning flights to the UK. Secondly a number of existing air operators (such as Emirates, Qatar and Rwandair) have lately changed from smaller to larger aircrafts-resulting in larger passenger volumes being carried. For instance Emirates upgraded to a Boeing 777 aircraft with a load capacity of 360 passengers. This is an improvement from Emirates’ previous Airbus 330, which had a load capacity of just 220 passengers. Similarly, Qatar Airways upgraded from Airbus 320 to Airbus 330-200 which respectively carry 144 and 260 passengers. Desirous to take advantage of the new business opportunities available at the CAA-managed Entebbe International Airport, Airlines have this same year increased the frequency of flights between Entebbe and other international destinations. Examples include Ethiopian Airlines which has increased (Entebbe-Addis Ababa) daily flights from two to three. Ethiopian Airlines has simultaneously also added another route to Juba and thereby making a total of 28 frequencies per week. Others Airlines have done exactly the same exhibiting more confidence in Entebbe and Uganda as a lucrative aviation market. Brussels Airlines recently increased its flights from five (in December 2017) to seven per week. This same year, Kenya Airways started operating six frequencies every day of the week apart from Wednesday sand Sunday which remain at 5 frequencies a day. This brings the total to 40 flights per week by Kenya Airways. Turkish Airlines has (on top of their current daily passenger flights) added a second cargo flight per week. “All these developments, including increase in frequencies by air operators and change of aircraft type from smaller to bigger types, show the growth in Uganda’s air transport industry,” says Luggya predicting that things can only get better with the new state of art facilities CAA continues to put in place.