With tourism now officially recognized as second largest source of foreign exchange after remittances from Ugandans working abroad, the Ugandan government is considering reviving its national carrier almost 20 years after it folded.
This follows reports that the viability of maintaining a national carrier is now feasible because traffic at Entebbe Airport has more than quadrupled in the past three years from 1,200 passengers per year to over 10,000.
According to the Transport and Works Minister Engineer Abraham Byandala, government was misled to think that running a national carrier was not feasible because it was just sucking money out of the economy with minimal returns yet air transport plays a supportive role in the transformation of the economy.
Speaking at the opening of the first Africa-Indian Ocean Aviation safety group and the 18th regional planning and implementation group on Monday, the minister said his ministry has prepared a five year strategic plan for the expansion of Entebbe airport.
“I think we were misled to think that running a national airline was not a feasible business. We tried through privatization to attract the private sector through the private public partnership but the investors we got said operating it was very expensive,” he said, adding that, “I am drafting a paper to present to cabinet about the viability of running a national carrier. Now that we have discovered oil and we shall be making our own aviation fuel, we need large reserves. We are going to have an aircraft maintenance center,” he said.
According to Dr. Rama Makuza, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) Managing director, CAA has a five-year strategic plan to expand Entebbe airport which will see the expansion of the car parking lot to make it storeyed while the number of aero plane hangars will be doubled from the current 11 to 22.
“We are planning for a second runway to accommodate bigger planes like those owned by Qatar and Emirates Airways because currently they cannot land here and even for smaller aerodromes like Kasese, Arua and Gulu, we want to expand them to accommodate planes to the magnitude of the Boeing 737,” he said.
Uganda Airlines under the Uganda Airlines Corporation was the flag carrier of Uganda. It was established in 1976 and started operations in 1977 with Entebbe Airport as its hub. It was liquidated in 2001 after attempts to privatize the debt ridden company failed.
Some of the investors who expressed interest in running the Airline included SA Alliance, Air Mauritius, British Airways Johanesberg based Inter Air, Kenya Airways and Sabena.