Resurrected Uganda Airlines flies into crowded African skies

Kenya Airports Authority staff members usher a Uganda Airlines Bombardier CRJ-900 plane during its relaunching flight to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi, Kenya August 27, 2019. Uganda Airlines has taken to the skies once more after almost two decades out of action, but flies into a crowded aviation market in Africa where carriers have the weakest finances and emptiest planes of any region in the world. The state carrier launched commercial flights on Wednesday, its first since it was liquidated in 2001, aiming to take a slice of the East African aviation business that is dominated by Ethiopian Airlines, the continent’s success story. Uganda is the latest African government to pour money into national flag carriers; Tanzania and Senegal are also resurrecting their airlines, while the likes of Rwanda, Ivory Coast and Togo are expanding theirs. But such efforts have been hampered by high business costs as well as protectionism, which has impeded a continental open-skies agreement – something industry experts say is vital for the success of African carriers in a tough market. The African market is forecast to grow almost 5% a year over the next two decades in terms of passengers, faster than mature markets, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA). However, this is from a low base and most state-owned flag carriers in the region are losing money. While the global aviation industry is on track to make a profit of $28 billion, African airlines are projected to make combined losses of $100 million this year, IATA said in June. Uganda Airlines, like some of its rivals, aims to attract more domestic travelers to help it buck the gloomy continental trend. Around 2 million passengers per year travel through Entebbe, Uganda’s main airport. Around 70% are Ugandans, said the carrier’s CEO Ephraim Bagenda. “All those currently travel on foreign airlines,” he told Reuters. “We want part of that cake.” Closed skies Last year, it looked like Africa was making progress on an open-skies agreement – the Single African Air Transport Market – to let airlines decide how frequently they fly between cities and which aircraft they use. A total of 28 countries have signed up, accounting for 75-80% of African air traffic. Uganda is considering signing, Works and Transport Minister Monica Azuba Ntege said. However, so far only 10 signatories – including Cape Verde, Ghana, Togo, Ethiopia and Nigeria – have begun […]

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