THE recent announcement by the British Airways to stop flights to Entebbe International Airport may come as surprise at a time when passenger traffic and flights to the country are increasing.
The discovery of oil and gas, conferences, religious tourism and the Pope’s expected visit to Uganda all present flight opportunities.
British Airways has operated in Uganda for 24 years after re-launching its flights to Uganda in 1991. It was the only airline operating direct flights to London, Heathrow.
“British Airways has been serving Entebbe in different forms for a number of years and we are continually reviewing and evaluating our flights. Sometimes the outcome of these reviews leaves us with decisions, like this one, that are extremely hard to make,” read a statement from British Airways.
This is the second airline company to suspend operations at Entebbe International Airport. Air Uganda suspended all operation in June 2014 after the Civil Aviation Authority withdrew its license.
However, there have been airline entries especially from the Middle East carriers. Two new players, Etihad Airways and Fly Dubai made their entry into Uganda in the last one year.
Other Middle East based airlines operating in Uganda include Fly Emirates, Turkish Airlines and Qatar Airways. Uganda first witnessed a civil Aviation motorized aircraft in its space in the early 30s when “a flying boat” landed at Port bell, south east of Kampala on the shores of Lake Victoria to deliver mail. The mail delivery service had earlier started in neighbouring Kenya in 1929 by Wilson Airways. The service facilitated communication between the colonial centers in the region.
The excitement generated by faster transport led to the creation of Directorate of Civil Aviation (DCA) in 1949 to over sees Civil Aviation activities in East Africa. In 1947 Entebbe was identified as the most suitable location for the country’s airport.
Entebbe was not only a bastion of the colonial structure in Uganda; it also provided easy navigation across the lake. Air Navigation services were at the time done through rudimentary technology. The airport at Entebbe was commissioned in 1951 with the splendour and presence of the Queen of England.
Uganda recently hosted the routes Africa conference with an attendance of over 350 local and international delegates in Kampala.
Speaking at the opening ceremony, the minister for tourism, wildlife and antiquities, Maria Mutagamba said one of the key aims of Uganda’s hosting the routes conference was to attract more investors to the region’s aviation industry.
“More investments in air transport boost our tourism industry and promote regional economic growth. As you may all be aware, air transport is very crucial for tourism growth. Tourism and air transport complement each other. Air transport provides a vital link between tourist sources and destinations. Tourism depends on transport for movement of passengers, while the transportation industry depends on tourism to generate demand for its services,” she added.
CAA’s managing director, Dr. Rama Makuza assured delegates that Uganda’s air space and airport are safe, secure and open for use in accordance with international regulations, standards and practices.
The country also boasts of several air fields in many towns such as Arua, Gulu, Jinja, Lira, Mbarara, Soroti, Kasese, Kidepo, Pakuba, Soroti, Moroto, Tororo and Kisoro. These airfields are witnessed tremendous flights and passenger growths.