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Eritrean airline enters Uganda amid slow passenger growth

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Nasair Eritrea officials chat after the airline made its maiden landing at Entebbe International Airport yesterday. Photo by FOTOCOM 

By Flavia Nalubega

Posted  Friday, May 18  2012 at  00:00

In Summary

Upward trend. Nasair Eritrea becomes the fourth airline to enter Uganda’s airspace in a period of three years. However, Gulf Air recently suspended its Entebbe route.

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Uganda recorded a marginal drop in air traffic in 2011 even as data shows that the country’s airline business is on the right track to progress.

The drop, according to Civil Aviation authority, resulted from a volatile global economy as tourists cut back on travels due to dwindling incomes.

Statistics provided by CAA indicate that Uganda’s passenger traffic reduced by 30,000 recording 1.2 million travellers in 2011 compared to 1.23 million recorded in 2010.

However, according to projections, air traffic might this year improve as Uganda becomes a major destination for tourists.

Recently Uganda was ranked as the global destination of choice for tourists in 2012.

The CAA public relations manager, Ignie Igundura, told Daily Monitor yesterday in Entebbe that even with a drop in the 2011 passenger numbers, Uganda’s airline traffic was on the right path to growth although it is slower compared to its regional neighbour – Kenya.

“Our curve is moving northwards. The growth is slow but it has been steady in the last ten years,” he said.

New airline entry
Meanwhile, Nasair, Eritrea’s national career made its maiden flight to Entebbe International Airport becoming the latest to launch its operations in Uganda in the last three years.

NasAir joins Qatar Airways, Turkish Air and Gulf Air – which suspended its Entebbe route early this year.

Uganda has in the last ten years registered tremendous growth in its air space as international careers seek to tap into the marked growth in air traffic resulting in part from the recent oil discovery and the generally positive outlook of the country’s economy.

However, a number of challenges including high aviation fuel prices continue to dog Uganda’s airline business.
Early this year, Gulf Air suspended its Entebbe route after only three months in operation citing low passenger numbers compared to players in the market and the increasing cost of doing business.

Mr Nasair Nasreddin Ibrahim, the chairman and group chief executive officer of Nasair, said at the launch of the airline’s services that Entebbe becomes the 11th route the airline will be plying with the aim of easing interconnectivity to boost trade, transport and tourism.

He said: “It has been difficult accessing Asmara for Ugandan travelers. Many travellers have had to pass through Nairobi,” however, he said “the new initiative shall provide an airline route from Uganda, through Asmara to Dubai.”

A sneak peek into Air Eritrea

Establishment. Nasair, which merged with Eritrea’s official carrier in 2006 was established in 2004 with an operating hub at Asmara international Airport. It has five airbuses, four of which are Boeing 737 and the other A320.
Other routes. Nasair also operates other routes including: Khartoum, Nairobi, Juba, Dubai, Saudi Arabia, Cairo, Bamako and Chad.

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