Uganda Airlines last Saturday resumed direct commercial flights from Entebbe Airport to South Africa after a 20-year-lull with a maiden cargo of 13 tonnes of Ugandan made medicine aboard Airbus A330.
Mr Gabriel Duma, the station manager of Uganda Airlines in Johannesburg, said for more than two years, Uganda had been relying onRwanda Air, Kenya Airways, and Ethiopian Airways which took more than nine hours to connect the two countries unlike the Saturday flight where both the flight to Johannesburg and back took about eight hours.
"There have been inconveniences. There were delays at the airport, an airline would cancel flights, passengers would arrive in Nairobi and the flights would be changed due to technicalities," he said.
Mr Duma said the two A330 Airbuses have not only eased direct connections between Uganda and various destinations, but also placed Uganda ahead of the aviation market and competitors in terms of connectivity, versatility of the aircraft which takes both passengers and cargo and its fuel efficiency, which most airlines are struggling with.
Mr Duma, however, refused to divulge the details of which medicines were exported to South Africa.
But the inscriptions on the boxes showed they were manufactured at Cipla Quality Chemical Industries Ltd.
When asked yesterday whether they export ARVS to South Africa, Mr Emmanuel Katongole, the board chairman of Cipla Quality Chemical Industries Ltd, said: "For the last two years we have been manufacturing ARVs for South Africa and we were using Kenya Airways. I am delighted that Uganda Airlines has woken up because we were spending millions of dollars."
Ms Monica Rubombora, the Uganda Airlines’ resident representative in South Africa, said the Airbus A330 has a promising route because everyone has been asking for cargo planes because all the planes have been carrying only passengers.
"Even with less advertising, the plane has cargo half, the capacity of the Airbus. We have 13 tonnes of apples destined to Uganda from South Africa, Aircraft and building materials and this will be two way business which we want," she said.
She asked the governments of Uganda and South Africa to speed up the signing of bilateral agreements on the trade of food commodities due to the high demand for organically produced food in South Africa.