Kampala. Uganda Airlines has postponed its maiden flight from July 31 to end of August following the delay to acquire the Air Operator Certification (AOC), which allows any aircraft operator to fly commercially.
Works and Transport minister Monica Azuba told Daily Monitor yesterday that they expected to acquire the AOC by July 29 from the aviation regulator, Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) but they decided to take more time to “tie all the loose ends.”
“Also when you get the AOC, it has to be forwarded to the IATA (the International Air Transport Association) to make sure that Uganda Airlines flight codes are added to the system to be visible to the world, but most specifically to countries where we are going to fly first,” Ms Azuba told Daily Monitor in an interview.
The IATA is the trade association of the world’s airlines, with membership of 290 airlines, and is charged with global commercial standards for the air transport industry.
Ms Azuba, however, said as part of the ongoing preparations, booking, reservations, ticketing and accounting systems of Uganda Airlines have been activated “but in a test environment using the IATA provisional codes”.
“Once we have the AOC our codes will have to be standardised,” she added. “We (ministry of Works) and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs also wrote to the countries where we expect to fly first, informing them we intend to fly but without the AOC—the licence for commercial flights—you cannot fly in their territories, and they require copy of it.”
She added: “It also allows those countries to respond to you within 30 days after receiving your AOC, so that is why we had to give ourselves enough room to start late in August.”
The national carrier is expected to commence its maiden flights to three destinations: Nairobi, Dar-es Salaam and Mogadishu.
Ms Azuba said the process of acquiring the AOC involves five stages: formal application for the certificate, document evaluation, demonstration, inspection and operationalisation, “but the delay has been so much on the demonstration part because you have to show competence and capability in a number of things”.
Other complementary processes include acquisition and transport of aircraft spares, purchase, implementation and testing of airline systems, airport services contracting at all destinations across the network, supplier contract negotiation for operational services, fuel, catering, technical handling, setting up of commercial offices and distribution network including airline association memberships, and establishment of an online system design and booking systems and payment gateways.
Uganda Airlines will be flying the Bombardier CRJ-900 aircrafts, with sitting capacity of 76 passengers to regional destinations. The destinations include Johannesburg, Kigali, Addis Ababa, Juba, Zanzibar, Bujumbura, Accra and Kinshasa.
The first two CRJ-900s aircraft were delivered in April while two more are expected to be delivered in September. The remaining two CRJ-900s were expected to be delivered this month and next month respectively. Ms Azuba yesterday said the manufacturer—Canada’s Bombardier Aerospace—wrote earlier confirming the delivery dates but the Uganda National Airlines Company Ltd delayed the process because the outstanding balance had not been cleared.
“As you know we just entered the new financial year, and Treasury is yet to release money for the first quarter, which is expected this week. After clearing the balance they (Bombardier) are required to deliver the aircrafts within 30 days—which will be September,” she added.
Uganda Airlines will also fly the A330-800neos from French aeronautics manufacturer, Airbus, which will be used for long-haul flights. The government has since made a down payment of Shs74b ($20m) on two Airbus A330-800neos. The first is expected to arrive in the country in December 2020, and the second in January 2021.
Some of the targeted long-haul routes include London, Bangkok, Guangzhou, Dubai, Tel Aviv and New Delhi.
Rwanda - Uganda
Meanwhile, the Uganda National Airlines Company last week published in the local dailies, a map of their first regional destinations which peculiarly left out Kigali, adding to speculation on the ongoing icy diplomatic relations between Rwanda and Uganda.
Ms Monica Azuba, however, said discussions on Uganda Airlines’ destinations are ongoing with several countries.
Sources familiar with the matter also hinted on the ongoing discussions for code sharing—a commercial arrangement between two airlines, whereby one sells seats on a flight operated by the other—between RwandAir and Uganda Airlines.