Aviation: How The UAE’s Travel Ban Is Affecting East African Carrier, Uganda Airlines’ Operations

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Few months after East African carrier, Uganda Airlines launched its flight operation to Dubai, the Middle East nation has had placed a ban on the airline’s operation into the country in a bid to curb the spread of the Omicron virus which is spreading fast globally.

According to simpleflying.com, on October 9th, 2021, Uganda Airlines launched flights to Dubai International Airport. Staff, passengers, and government officials were all ecstatic following the first landing of flight UR 466 from Entebbe International Airport. Those witnessing the launch hoped that the new service would boost trade, investment, and tourism. However, the increase in the latter is certainly on hold amid the UAE’s travel bans.

Strict measures
Passengers from Uganda, along with numerous other African nations, have been barred from entering Dubai since December 28th as part of official policies to try and mitigate the spread of Omicron. This ban follows a previous one that was in place last summer. With these stringent restrictions in place, passengers have been left stranded trying to get to their destination.

There is a strong market for Uganda-UAE travel. Notably, following the launch of Uganda Airlines’ flights to Dubai, passenger activity was rising on the route.

READ: Africa: How Uganda’s $325 million (Ush1.1 trillion) airport loan from China puts facility at risks of being taking over

Plenty of potential
The Independent, a Ugandan magazine, shares that when the passenger flights have been in motion, Uganda Airlines has seen load factors match that of popular short-haul routes to the likes of Johannesburg, South Africa and Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania. These figures were providing strong returns for the flag carrier of Uganda.

“On the first commercial flight, we had 80 passengers on our 258-passenger Airbus to Dubai. On the second flight, we had 220 passengers. Definitely, business was affected by the ban. We were making $60,000 to $70,000 per flight before the ban.” – Uganda Airlines CEO Jennifer Bamuturaki, via The Independent.

Uganda Airlines deploys its Airbus A330-800neo to the Middle Eastern global hub. The schedule was three times a week, but the plan was to boost the frequency to five times following passenger demand.

Nonetheless, the operator is valuing the continuance of trade between its country and the UAE. Cargo remains crucial for the airline, allowing it to record notable income despite the travel ban. Bamuturaki highlights that cargo loads are now greater without passengers, averaging an income of between $50,000 and $60,000 per flight.

Strong ambitions
Even though the brand name date back to the 1970s, the current incarnation of Uganda Airlines was only formed in January 2018 and commenced operations in August 2019. The company entrusts the A330 and CRJ900 on routes to several countries such as the UAE, Burundi, South Sudan, Kenya, Somalia, DRC, and South Africa from its Entebbe hub.

While there are considerable growing pains amid the industry-wide difficulties of the global health crisis, the airline is managing to adapt well. There are significant expansion plans with the firm looking for new narrowbodies to join the fold. The Embraer E195-E2 and Airbus A220-300 are two possibilities for the airline.

Overall, the UAE flight ban is rocking flight operations for several carriers and disrupting countless passenger plans amid the country’s role as an important connecting point. Airlines and travelers affected by the restrictions will be hoping for better prospects this year. Regardless, Uganda Airlines is showing its ability to look for opportunities in these challenging times.

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