The inaugural Uganda Airlines flight successfully touched down in Nairobi, Kenya on Tuesday afternoon, paving way for the first commercial flight scheduled for Wednesday.
There was merrymaking at the Entebbe International Airport earlier on Tuesday as government officials and other guests attended the launch of the flights four months after Uganda received two Bombardier CRJ900 jetliners as part of the revival of the national carrier.
Uganda Airlines ceased operations in 2001. President Yoweri Museveni in the recent past revived the push for the airline to be reintroduced as a strategic enabler of travel, trade and tourism.
Uganda Airlines flight UR202 left Entebbe slightly later than the scheduled time (11:10am) on Tuesday and on board were select officials in government including the Minister of Works and Transport, Eng Monica Ntege Azuba, the CEO of Uganda Airlines, Ephraim Bagenda, Chairperson of the Parliamentary Committee on National Economy, Syda Bumba among others.
Upon arrival at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi, the aircraft was welcomed us with a water salute, as is custom.
At a press conference held at Sheraton in Nairobi Kenya, the Kenyan Cabinet Secretary for East African Community, Adan Mohammed officially congratulated and welcomed Uganda Airlines on its historic revival.
He said it is now upon the passengers to pick between Uganda Airlines and other airlines.
On his part, the Managing Director for Kenya Airports Authority, Jonny Andersen said: “The decision by Uganda Airlines to fly to JKIA is an eloquent testimony to the fact that member states of the East Africa Community are committed to deepening co-operation by member state in the aviation sector”.
“We are proud that that Uganda Airlines has joined our airline fraternity at JKIA. We extend to you a warm welcome and wish you success at this airport”.
The inauguration ceremony in Uganda was presided over by Prime Minister, Dr Ruhakana Rugunda who represented President Yoweri Museveni, currently in Japan.
In his speech, the President said the revival of the airline was critical as the country was donating huge sums of money to other countries through travel expenses.
“Besides, that was a lot of convenience by traveling Ugandans by not having direct flights even charged sometimes discriminatory fares,” he said.
The other two Bombardier CRJ900s are set to be delivered in September and the two Airbus A330-800 Neos will be delivered in 2020.
He described the day as historic.
Uganda Airlines received its Air Operator Licence from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) last month.
“Uganda plays a critical role in the geopolitical and economic stability of East Africa as a region. And as a nation, we are strategically placed to serve our friends,” he said.
He said that with the airline in place, people in South Sudan, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Burundi and DRC will be a able to access the Ugandan market and connect to other destinations.
Rugunda added that the airline needs to take advantage of the natural endowments that Uganda has.
“There has never been a better time to launch commercial flights than now when passenger traffic is growing due to increased demand for Uganda’s tourism,” Rugunda noted.
According to the Minister of Works and Transport, the airline will its initial phase of commercial flights fly to 7 destinations including Nairobi, Mogadishu, Juba and Dar es Salaam.
Later on, Mombasa, Kilimanjaro and Bujumbura will be added.
While she acknowledged the significance in Tuesday’s event, Minister Azuba said making the airline a successful venture remains a daunting task. She challenged the officials of Uganda Airlines to strive to make the project viable.