Entebbe records growth in passenger numbers

Students and staff of Amus College School Bukedea at Entebbe International Airport on February 20, 2023. The airport recorded a 35 percent increase in overall passenger numbers. PHOTO | PAUL ADUDE

What you need to know:

  • Entebbe suffered a more than 80 percent dip in 2020 as the Covid-19 pandemic brought the world to its knees.

A 7,415 drop in passenger figures for January from the 156,790 that transited through Entebbe International Airport in December 2022 will hardly be noticeable considering the upheaval faced during the period.

The airport, Uganda’s only international gateway, recorded a 35 percent increase in overall passenger numbers with 149,375 last month compared to 110,547 in the same period last year.

Entebbe suffered a more than 80 percent dip in 2020 as the Covid-19 pandemic brought the world to its knees.

However, in the post-Covid recovery, a year-on-year growth in passenger numbers of 67 percent in 2021 followed by 35 percent, shows positives.

“Entebbe had a daily average of 4,818 passengers in January 2023,” Mr Vianney Luggya, the UCAA spokesperson, said.

Industry experts say the recovery was partly supported by a new route of direct flight to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, reverting to pre-Covid schedules as well as strong festive season traffic during December. 

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) spent the better part of January battling to steady its flight following a torrent of extortion revelations coming in the midst of the post-Covid-19 pandemic recovery period.

Amid the scandal, the CAA sanctioned at least 26 staff it investigated and found culpable for, among others, extortion of passengers, connivance to let off illegal passengers, and other forms of corruption.

With 72,934 arrivals and 76,441 departures last month, the total of 149,375 passengers in January showed a marked improvement from the 110,547 in the same period last year.

CAA put the post-Covid-19 pandemic recovery at 87 percent.

The figures were also partly helped by Uganda Airlines’ 22,245 passengers in January. Notably, the national carrier’s passenger load factor for January was 43 percent, meaning the airline was selling close to half of its seats per flight.

The load factor is a metric used in the airline industry that measures the percentage of available seating capacity that has been filled with passengers. 

Ms Shakila Rahim Lamar, the head of corporate affairs at Uganda Airlines, said the number of passengers was an improvement from the 19,208 in the same period last year – at 16 percent between the two months.

Compared to Kenya’s second busiest international airport, Moi International Airport in Mombasa (MIA), Entebbe is as well cruising comfortably on autopilot.

Angela Tilitei, the corporate communications manager at Kenya Airports Authority, said MIA recorded 147,168 passengers in January, a big post-Covid recovery push from 95,168 travellers in January 2022.

But Entebbe is still way off Kenya’s main international airport, the Jomo Kenyatta, whose annual improvement of 260,000 passengers from the 402,172 in January last year dwarfs Entebbe’s overall monthly travels.

The Jomo Kenyatta International Airport recorded 660,017 passengers last month, compared to the 402,172 at the same period last year. However, Ms Tilitei said the figures are not definite.

Entebbe, Mr Luggya said, recorded a total of arriving and departing passengers of 1,574,405 in 2022, compared to 941,688 in 2021, 565,541 in 2020 and 1,802,107 in 2019.

In cargo, the airport recorded 5,014 metric tonnes – including 1,752 tonnes in imports and 3,262 tonnes in exports – in January. 

IATA outlook

The global airline industry is expected to finally return to profitability in 2023, a recent outlook released by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) suggests.  

IATA estimates that airline net losses will stand at approximately $6.9 billion at the end of 2022 compared to $42b and $137.7b recorded in 2021 and 2020, respectively, IATA noted in its December 6, 2022 outlook.  

The association also expects an 8.4 percent increase in passenger traffic compared to last year, leading to a significant increase in passenger revenues, reaching $438b compared to $239b in 2021.