Caption for the landscape image:

Uganda Airlines leased A320 to augment operations

Scroll down to read the article

Writer:Shakila Rahim Lamar. PHOTO/FILE/COURTESY

There are few things more distressing for a passenger than to get to the check-in counter and learn that you cannot travel with all your baggage on the same flight, even if you were willing to pay.  

Even worse, arriving at your destination only to discover that some of your baggage did not get onto the flight. At the airline level, we do everything within our means to avoid or mitigate such events. With the addition of the new aircraft, we are now able to accommodate more baggage.

On May 9, Uganda Airlines added an Airbus A320 to its fleet on ACMI lease (Aircraft, Crew, Maintenance and Insurance) from South Africa-based Global Aviation. Since its arrival, many people have wondered why we had to add an aircraft at this particular time. Keen followers of our operations will have noticed that since May 15, the A320 has replaced the CRJ on some of our services to Kinshasa and Lagos.

The main reason for bringing in this aircraft is to protect the operation and provide relief for our passengers, whom we call guests.  As our Chief Executive Officer has explained before, our growth on some routes has rendered the CRJ inadequate in a number of respects. We could no longer satisfy peak demand or maximise the available market opportunity. This strategic move was necessary to ensure our continued growth and service quality.  

A similar situation existed in the service to Kinshasa. However, with the introduction of the A320, with its 150 seats, we have doubled our capacity for passengers and cargo. This means that we can now better match capacity to demand, ensuring a more comfortable and efficient travel experience for our valued passengers. This strategic move should result in an overall improvement in our operating economics, benefiting both the airline and our passengers.

More importantly, the lease improves the reliability of our services and frees critical capacity. Freeing the capacity in the CRJ fleet will also allow us to focus on aspects of network development that had been held up by equipment shortages. So, as the travel market continues to recover, we are better positioned to open new routes and increase frequency where the opportunity exists within our network.

Additionally, the A330 fleet is due for its C-Check, which is a mandatory airworthiness directive of engine maintenance procedure required after specified cycles. This means that the A320 is timely in bridging the medium-haul gaps. 

Generally, there are three types of aircraft leases – Dry, Damp, and Wet. Under a Dry lease, the airline rents only the aircraft without the crew and is responsible for all aspects of its operation, including crew, maintenance, and insurance. Such leases tend to be for longer periods, lasting 3 to 12 years.

They also require the airline to have the aircraft added to its Air Operators Certificate by the home regulator, hire qualified crew, and contract maintenance. Dry leases are ideal in situations where the airline already operates the type of aircraft being hired and has some existing capabilities such as line maintenance, pilots, and cabin crew.

On the other hand, a damp lease is halfway between a dry and wet lease. The airline rents the aircraft but only with the flight crew. It can use its own cabin crew, provided they are qualified on the type. Like a dry lease, it allows the airline to make savings on crew costs. 

By their nature, wet leases are very expensive and are, by default, short-term solutions. They are costly because the airline pays for each hour of operation based on the cost structure of the aircraft owner.

On the flip side, they are attractive when dealing with unexpected capacity shortfalls because the aircraft comes in on the Air Operators Certificate of the regulator in the country of registration, thus cutting out a lot of bureaucracy. It is also a complete solution comparable to turning a tap on and off.

They are, therefore, designed to address temporary capacity gaps as more durable solutions are organised.

Uganda Airlines leased the A320 for an initial six months, and thereafter, it will receive another aircraft on the same arrangement. There are plans for a long-term solution; we are currently in the process of implementing our 10-year fleet plan, which will see eight new aircraft added to our operation.

Until the plan is fully actualised, the airline will seek alternative ways to protect the operation through leasing arrangements. We hope to have found a longer-term solution at the end of that period.

We, therefore, look forward to welcoming our guests to an enhanced travel experience and our unparalleled service.

Ms Shakila Rahim Lamar serves at Uganda Airlines.