Uganda Airlines seeks to double crew numbers to address flight delays 

Uganda Airlines says that to deal with flight delays and expand into new routes it needs to increase its crew numbers to at least 24 pairs of captains and 24 pairs of first officers. Photo / File  

What you need to know:

  • Uganda Airlines says that the current crew numbers are not sufficient to allow it achieve targeted flights and route plan

Uganda Airlines Uganda has said it needs to double its crew numbers in order to scale new routes and address flight delays. 

Speaking during a press briefing in Munyonyo, Kampala, Mr David Kaweesa, the Uganda Airlines director of flight operations, said that at the moment, the airline’s crew is composed of 13 pairs of first officers and 13 pairs of captains, which is lower than the required to expand regional flights and scale up new routes. 

Therefore, he said, to achieve flight and revenue targets there was need to boost crew numbers to at least 24 pairs of captains and 24 pairs of first officers. 

The airline also revealed that it had scaled back on some flight numbers for routes such as Nairobi and Juba, which were reduced from three daily flights to two.

Ms Jenifer Bamuturaki, the Uganda Airlines chief executive officer, indicated at the press briefing that they had cut back on some flight to ensure that crew members work within regulatory requirements. 

“All this is done [so that we] work within [existing] regulations. We have to work with the crew members we have, and we cannot overwork them,” she said, adding that: “We will have to [have] enough [captains] and first officers to add new routes.”

Ms Bamuturaki also noted that the airline has previously had to postpone or cancel flights, especially in busy periods such as last December due to the need to maintain safe operating margins for crew rest periods. 

“While we had the aircraft, we did not have pilots. In order not to burst safety margins with the available crew roster, we had to sacrifice schedules, which resulted into flight delays or postponements,” she said. 

Uganda Airlines also dismissed reports that had alleged that it was overworking its crew members, with Mr Kaweesa noting that “regulatory requirements and our own internal controls” cannot allow crew members to work beyond five consecutive days. 

“We have a two-way check-in. I am not allowed to schedule someone out of the legal requirements and that officer should not accept any duty which is illegal,” he said.  

Thus, to address the shortfall in crew numbers, Uganda Airlines noted that it had opened a recruitment process for first captains, which according to Mr Kaweesa, had returned only four successful applicants out of the 67 that had applied.  

“We are still recruiting. It’s not easy to get captains because [there are] many airlines competing for a scarce resource. Some of our pilots have gone to bigger airlines. But in filling that gap, we have to make sure we [get the right people], that is why our interviewing process has to be thorough,” he said. 

Uganda Airlines has previously indicated its intention to launch new routes but, noted during the briefing that lack of sufficient personnel had forced it to delay scheduled expansions into London, Guangzhou, and Jeddah Riyad, as well as Abuja and Lusaka for which it had already obtained foreign operator permits. 

However, the airlines indicated that it hopes to receive Shs120b in the upcoming financial year to support its operations that will be key in attaining revenue targets as well as improve its competitive edge.