Ambassador Henry Mayega

The Yoweri Museveni administration, a couple of years ago decided to reinstate the national carrier, Uganda Airlines, for good reasons namely, and first, to spur tourism in the country, enable global citizens have direct access to Uganda rather than going through other destinations, diminish the exploitation of others who were overcharging Ugandans, improve regional connectivity, supersize national pride – like all other players do anyway. There were other beneficial spin-offs considered like creating employment opportunities to Ugandans in form of cabin crew, airline administrative support, operations agents, avionic technicians, flight dispatchers, aviation meteorologists, crew schedule coordinators, flight instructors as well as spurring comestible service providers.

Initially founded in May 1976 and headquartered at Entebbe, the carrier commenced operations in 1977 and ran into precarious management as well as financial issues in the 1990s – the underlying contributary factors to the career’s malaise of the incessant political instabilities of the 1970s and 1980s notwithstanding. While plans were underway to salvage it via privatisation, a matter remotely known to the recessing and innumerable critics as well as hecklers of the Yoweri Museveni administration, the then intending bidders, including British Airways and South African Airways, that had exhibited take-over interest eventually withdrew and, as a result, the carrier was liquidated in May 2001.

After judicious blueprinting and mapping out possible lucrative destinations, the carrier’s Dubai route was exquisitely launched during the famed 2020 Expo Dubai thanks to its dexterous CEO , Janifer Bamuturaki and team who are doing superbly in terms of upsurging our presence in the middle eastern skies. 

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With the current fleet size of six plying to twelve destinations, the sky is the limit as to what the career can achieve over time; although there is no one-size-fits-all quick fixing to ensure that UA remains particularly competitive, the government and UA will have to interrogate the following documented aviation precepts: one, the choice to go heavily regional and avoid being sucked into the gymnastics of competing on a grand international scale in the short run; the adjacent geographical theme is particularly important because our regional trade volumes  and by extension, cargo, as well as human traffic are burgeoning by the day. This is not to suggest that we, forever, should remain localised to the current terminals, no. Long-haul destinations like Guanzhou, China, India’s populous cities and London, UK are particularly attractive due to historical and traditional mercantile reasons.

Every country may, of course, have their well-considered reasons for towing either of the two options: operating at a regional or a robustly grand international scale. 

Secondly, it should be a prudent requirement for government technocrats who officially globetrot using public funds to fly the national carrier where applicable as we (Uganda Embassy staff – Abu Dhabi) are doing in an act of patriotism to ensure steady cash-flow to the operations of the UA rather than donating to others – an ongoing practice of conventional wisdom by Kenya Airways and a couple of others to buttress their national carriers in an increasingly competitive aviation industry. It is worth noting that UA panes are the latest versions of their models and as such they are particularly alluring. This measure will, ideally, need the administration’s support to ensure compliance otherwise UA competitiveness may risk remaining a largely pipe dream.

Thirdly, it is always recommended to master-plan and maintain a uniform fleet – one that is not procured from innumerable manufacturers. The spin-off of this is: it lowers the maintenance costs because that single manufacturer gives you favourable and significant maintenance costs as a result of specialization and readily available standard extra-parts inventory. In otherwards, the more the suppliers/manufacturers of your aircrafts, the higher the maintenance costs due to multiple model series procurements as well as regulatory roadblocks.

Fourthly, the actual aircraft that makes up a uniform fleet is a significant aviation decision. It has a direct relationship with fuel efficiency and performance which are key in the short-to-medium-range flight segment management.

Lastly but not least, there are other contributary factors to the wellness and success of airlines that include superb service, profitability, uncompromising approach to safety and security, ethical business approaches as well as effective management. These things are within reach of the UA.   

Ambassador Henry Mayega

Deputy Head of Mission

Uganda Embassy

Abu Dhabi, UAE