Government is set to purchase its very first set of aircrafts in line with the plans to revamp the national carrier, Uganda Airlines.
The first four aeroplanes; Bombardiers of 80 to 100 passenger sitting capacity will be purchased by the end of this year, according to the Works and Transport Minister, Eng Monica Ntege Azuba.
The Bombardier CRJ900 regional jet liners are set to be manufactured by Canadian based leading multinational aerospace and transportation company, Bombardier Inc.
These will majorly ply regional routes within the East African Community.
Another procurement of two Airbus A330 Series 800 wide-body twin-engine jet airliners will also be acquired from France with a 300 passenger sitting capacity.
“We are in negotiations so we don’t have a lumpsum figure for all the 6 planes. But we have already made a deposit payment as commitment,” Minister Azuba told SoftPower News in an interview.
The commitment fees total to USD 1.2 million (Shs 4.4 billion) split between Bombardier and Airbus. Each of the four Bombardiers has cost USD 100,000 while the two Airbus carriers cost USD 400,000 each in upfront payment.
According to the discussions, manufacturers have been given a minimum two years to have completed the Airbus planes.
“In two years, we shall be flying internationally,” the Minister said.
“A task force for the implementation of the start up activities for the national carrier was set up, Business plans were made and approved by Cabinet,” the Minister said while responding to a query on the viability of this project.
Azuba told journalists that the revamping of the airline is critical especially in bringing down the cost of air transport as well as boosting Uganda’s exports.
“The number of people using airplanes has increased and so has Uganda’s agricultural produce. For us to ease the transportation of these products, we need a national carrier,” she said.
The tourism sector has been at the fore front of pushing for the revamping of Uganda airlines, arguing that it is a critical component in strategically opening the country to the outside increasing tourist numbers. Once Uganda Airlines is operational, foreign travelers will have direct flights to Uganda which partly reduces the cost
Based on the drafted business plan, it will take Uganda Airlines a period of 4 to 5 years to break even from the time it is operational.
“The profitability is not the priority. What we need initially is to have an infrastructure for trade, business and our tourism. The national carrier will also market the country,” Azuba added.
She noted that beside the sales made from passengers, other innovative commercial avenues like ground handling, catering and maintenance can be explored to make money.
The managing director of Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), David Kakuba said that the national carrier will convert Entebbe International Airport into an international hub on top of growing Uganda’s exports.
“Ugandans should look at the airline as the development of a social infrastructure. It will have many multiplier effects, it will transform Entebbe into a hub. We are going to increase on the export of our tradition fresh exports and so many other things,” Kakuba said.
“I am really glad that the government finally listened to our voices that the airline is a must,” he added.
Meanwhile, Kakuba revealed that several aerodrones across the country including Arua, Gulu and Kasese have been rehabilitated.
In her presentation of the progress being made in the works and transport sector, the Minister pointed out the ongoing works to expand the Entebbe International Airport. In the previous financial year, 50% of works on the new cargo centre complex were completed.
Other developments that are still underway include the establishment of a modern check-in and baggage handling system, the modification of the Passenger Terminal Building and rehabilitation of Aprons 1 and 2.