The cardinal objective of setting up national airlines is to create an economic infrastructure for the economic ecosystems of the country.
This infrastructure is even more important for landlocked countries such as Uganda. Many countries such as Singapore, United Arab Emirates, Ethiopia, and Rwanda have greatly benefited from the role played by their airlines in their economies. For example, Singapore Airlines currently carries more than 65 percent of the cargo of south Asia albeit the size of Singapore. Ethiopian Airlines runs the economy of Ethiopia.
Airlines also play a cardinal role in promoting and branding their home countries as they are moving billboards.
Being an infrastructure, therefore, profitability is not measured using parameters of corporate entities but the impact the airline creates across the ecosystems of the economy like tourism, trade, travel connectivity, and employment.
The re-establishment of the airline is further supported by the strong unique selling proposition of Uganda in terms of fresh exports as well as tourism for which our country has a strong potential if well optimised.
Given the ongoing debate on the airline, one needs to appreciate the key success factors for any airline, in order to avoid losing the intended objectives for reviving the airline.
Uganda Airlines was definitely revived at the right time and a lot of studies had been done on countries that have strong home-based airlines.
Of course, given the fact that airline operations are global in nature, they are directly affected by the global economic factors that change every other time frame.
This requires an airline to operate competitively and strategically in order to break even and achieve the country’s economic objectives. Uganda Airlines was affected by the Covid-19 pandemic at its infancy stage and the effects need a strategic approach in all aspects of airline management.
In many countries where airlines have succeeded, there is high-level political support as well as professionalism in all operations as the standards are global in nature and are closely monitored for every flight. The key guidelines for airline operations are safety and security for both cargo and passengers.
There are always no shortcuts in aviation as every aspect of the management and operations /incidents are well documented and benchmarked with previous incidents and/or accidents.
In order for our airline to succeed, the board, management, staff as well the public (customers), and all stakeholders need to fully appreciate the objectives and the global nature of the industry.
In many success stories of airlines, the public has played a big role in terms of free positive publicity and loyalty to the airline. A case in point is KLM, British Airlines, Emirates, Ethiopian Airlines, etc where the nationals take their airlines as their first choice for flying.
Uganda Airlines started its operations with the right equipment and therefore needs public support to develop the route networks in order to effectively continue contributing to the economic and infrastructure development of the country.
In order to achieve this, the airlines management needs to review the structure, culture, possible strategic alliance options, planning and forecasting, technology, marketing, and branding as well as outsourcing human resources since the airline needs to concentrate on its core activity.
To achieve all this, an effective and transparent recruitment structure, continuous training, strategic planning, effective route development, quality management, and effective marketing are key.
By and large, Uganda Airlines needs the support of every citizen as it has all the critical success factors, especially equipment, strategic location, conducive business environment, and friendly people. Now more than ever, we need to join hands and support our national airline if we are to achieve sustainable economic development.
Prof Tom Davis Wasswa