Arabs launch Airline in Uganda as Uganda Airlines launch direct flights to Middle East

At least 81 passengers flew aboard the maiden Uganda Airlines flight to Dubai on October 4, as the national carrier launched direct flights to the Middle East. Barely a week after Uganda Airlines launched direct flights to the Middle East, when a new Airline launched its flights to Uganda on October 10.

The airline dubbed AirArabia, had its maiden commercial flight with a direct flight from Entebbe International Airport to Sharjah International Airport in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Mr. Ibrahim Abdisalam, an official from AirArabia, said their carrier provides a low cost travel experience to Middle East countries like the UAE, and Saudi Arabia, among others.

Present, was the state minister for transport, Fred Byamukama, UAE high commissioner to Uganda, CEO Air Arabia, chairman Airlines regulation committee among others. Eng. Ayub Sooma the director for Aviation and Airports security said, Uganda attaches a lot of importance to the aviation sector because it guarantees the country’s direct international access thus promoting tourism, trade and social economic development.

“The government’s aviation strategy is to leverage Uganda’s geographical location to become a regional transit hub for air transport so that the country can compete successfully for economic opportunities,” stated Eng. Sooma.

The newly inaugurated AirArabia receiving a canon salute during its maiden flight at Entebbe Airport

As the government is implementing the first phase of the upgrade and expansion of facilities at Entebbe airport worth US4200m, the move is intended to accommodate the current and future traffic and also make it comply with the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) safety requirements. According to Eng. Sooma, Phase one of the construction is almost completed awaiting to kick-start the second phase worth US$125m.

The state minister for transport Fred Byamukama said, the launch of AirArabia means a lot to the future development of Uganda and other economies in the region because the influence of aviation to tourism, business, agriculture, oil and gas, can not be underestimated. While international passenger traffic reduced from 1.98million passengers in 2019 to now a paltry 565,541 passengers in 2020 owing to COVID-19 impacts, there has been an increase in cargo volumes.

From 42,000 metric tonnes in 2019, to 58,898 tonnes registered in 2020, cargo increase has been realised. “Therefore, with more operators including AirArabia joining Uganda Airspace, we are optimistic that  the number of passengers and cargo traffic will continue to grow,” noted the minister.

AirArabia joins other airlines like Emirates, Fly Dubai and Uganda Airlines which fly directly to the UAE.  In order to harness the full potential and all benefits of civil aviation to the economy, UCAA has put emphasis on ensuring passenger facilitation through addressing stakeholder needs and expectations.

According to minister Byamukama, Air transport is as competitive as road transport due to the growing number of passengers. Many Ugandans travel to UAE for trade and business hence, bring a lot of cargo and agricultural products which ought to be exported from Uganda to UAE. He lauded UCAA for speeding up the clearance process saying, it’ll speed up the development process in terms of trade and tourism.

Abdi Salan Ahmed Ibrahim the GS AirArabia said, the Airline will be operating three flights a week; Sunday, Wednesday and Friday. The new Airline brings the number of airlines in Uganda to 14, according to Denis Oloro an economic regulation officer at Uganda Civil Aviation Authority (UCAA). 

He explained that before COVID-19, there were 16 airlines but three left the business following the outbreak of the pandemic.  “We identified Uganda because we have seen a lot of potential here. We hope that our presence is going to boost the economy through trade, tourism among others,” Abdisalam noted. 

Statistics from the Gender ministry show that an average of 12,000 Ugandans leave for the Middle East annually in search of employment. It further shows that the number of Ugandans seeking employment in the Middle East has been growing since 2010, becoming one of the biggest stock of labour opportunities and source of remittance.

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