Government has clarified on the extension of the date at which Uganda Airlines will start commercial flights, from July to August, saying this was due to the process of carrying out system tests and acquiring clearances/ operating authorizations from destination countries.
Uganda received its first two of the four Bombardier CRJ900 jetliners on April 23 this year. The Bombardiers will be flying the regional routes within the EAC and other countries on the continent.
At the time of the delivery of the CRJ900s, government revealed that the national carrier would fly passengers effective July. However, this timeline was recently revised to August.
On Tuesday, Minister of Works and Transport, Eng Monica Ntege Azuba told reporters that the 5-phased process of obtaining the Air Operating Certificate (AOC) from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) is currently underway and at stage four.
This process according to the regulations, takes 90 days, and this is what had informed the initial timeline of July.
Whereas Azuba says the airline is still on track to meet the deadline, there are other systems that need to be set up and tested in addition to securing approvals from the destinations where Uganda Airlines will be flying. This entire process, she said, takes maximum 30 days from the issuance of the AOC.
The airline needs permission to fly to other countries as required by civil aviation and airport authorities.
“Considerable progress has been made on the certification process and currently the airline is at Phase 4, leaving only one more phase to be completed before the AOC can be issued,” the Ministed said.
“The targeted date for the issuance of the AOC to the Airline is 28th July 2019. This means that Uganda Airlines can fly after this date”.
She said the booking, reservations, ticketing and accounting systems of Uganda Airlines which allow the public to buy tickets online are ready and have been activated in a “test” environment.
The systems have been set up using provisional International Air Transport Association (IATA) designator and IATA accounting codes. The issuance of the AOC will trigger the activation of the codes in a “live” environment.
Now, Uganda will have to wait for 30 more days (although it could be less, depending on the individual foreign destinations) from July 28, to finalize the testing and setting up of the systems and processes as well as acquiring clearances/operating authorizations from destination countries before embarking on commercial flights.
“For the Airline to commence commercial flights, the systems and clearances have to be operationalized,” Azuba said.
The systems and processes mentioned above include Activating the Airline Designator and Accounting Codes. This involves activation of the booking, reservations, ticketing and accounting systems of Uganda Airlines.
According to the Minister, these systems have currently been set up using provisional IATA designator and IATA accounting codes and are under a test environment.
Since the AOC is not yet issued, testing of integration platforms as well as completion of set up and training cannot be done at this time until after the AOC has been presented.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Works and Transport along with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs have written to the destination countries requesting for acceptance of the designation of Uganda Airlines to operate on the various routes.
“It is therefore prudent to factor in the 30 days when setting the date for launching commercial operations,” Azuba said.
Uganda expects the remaining two Bombardier CRJ900s to be delivered in September this year. Then the two Airbus A330-800 Neos will be delivered in 2020, although the Minister couldn’t give a specific date. The Airbus planes will be operating the long international routes.
Regarding staff, the Minister says the key post holders that will be responsible for running the different operations have already been recruited. She also said that in destinations where the airline will be flying, staff, offices and systems have been set up since this is a prerequisite for granting Uganda operating approval.
The Uganda Airlines initial regional routes will include Nairobi, Dar Es Salam and Mogadishu.
“These destinations shall be operated first to orient staff and service providers in the Uganda Airlines Procedures and Standards”.
Later, the airline will extend to Kilimanjaro, Juba and Mombasa. Other destinations after the delivery of the next two CRJ in September and conclusion of the permissions will be Khartoum, Kinshasa, Kigali, Lubumbashi, Harare, Lusaka, Addis Ababa, Hargeisa, Zanzibar and Johannesburg.