The airline, which trades as Fly – SAX, launched its operations in the country on Monday. It will ply the Nairobi – Entebbe route, seen as one of the most expensive short routes in the world.
“We lured this new airline in order to break KQ’s monopoly. There is no way one can bring down the fares if one has no competition,” said Dr Stephen Chebrot, the State Minister for Transport at the launch.
He said the entry of Fly – SAX into Uganda’s aviation market is in line with Uganda Civil Aviation Authority’s (UCAA) liberalisation policy of enhancing competition and improving service delivery.
The new airline will operate two scheduled flights daily, on the Entebbe – Nairobi route, according to Mrs Claire Misire, the country manager. The maiden flight is due on January 9. A return ticket costs $318 (about Shs892,000).
Meanwhile, RwandAir, Rwanda’s national carrier, is also set to commence operations on the Nairobi Entebbe route. According to an advert published in the media, the airline will start operating direct flights to Nairobi on January 10th and a ticket will cost $250 (about Shs700,000).
Officials from the airline were not available for a comment by press time.
Following the grounding of Air Uganda mid last year, UCAA granted Rwandair fifth freedom rights to operate flights to Nairobi. However, the absence of a green light from the Kenyan authorities has been holding it back.
Mr Ignie Igunduura, the public affairs manager at UCAA, said the arrival of new players on the 45-minute route is partly a result of the recent signing of a pact among Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda and South Sudan on the management of the Northern Corridor Air Space bloc.
“It is a joint effort aimed at bringing down the fares in the regional airspace. The competition on the route will also lead to better services and more options to travellers,” he said.
The Entebbe-Nairobi route has in past proved difficult for some airlines to fly, as earlier efforts by Africa One, East African Airways and Victoria International Airways among others ended unsuccessfully.
Africa Airline performance Outlook for 2015:
According to the International Air Transport Association’s 2015 outlook for the global airline industry, Africa is the weakest region in the past two years.
Profits are barely positive ($200 million in 2015 which is an improvement on the break-even performance in 2014), and represent just $2.51 per passenger.
Breakeven load factors (percentage of seats filled at a particular yield versus the airlines operating costs) are relatively low, as yields are a little higher than average while costs are lower. However, few airlines in the region are able to achieve adequate load factors, which are the lowest among the regions by almost five percentage points. Performance is improving, but slowly.
The new airline has increased the number of scheduled international air operators in the Ugandan airspace to 19.
Last year three new air operators – Fastjet, Fly Dubai and Etihad – Cargo – joined the Ugandan airspace.
Etihad Airways is also set to launch passenger services to Entebbe on May 1 this year using a two-class Airbus A320 aircraft with 16 Business Class seats and 120 Economy Class seats.