Air traffic in Uganda is registering exponential growth, something that necessitated the current expansion of Entebbe International Airport.
While talking to East African Business Week Digital in Entebbe on August 15, Uganda Civil Aviation Authority (UCAA) Manager Public Affairs Vianney Mpungu Luggya noted that passenger traffic and cargo volumes have been steadily growing over the years.
He said: “In 1991 when UCCA had just been established, in terms of cargo, we recorded 6600 metric tonnes. In 2018, we recorded 62,000 metric tonnes of cargo. That’s why we are putting up a 100,000 metric-tonne capacity cargo centre with a provision for expansion to handle 150,000 metric tonnes.”
He added: “For passengers, in 1991, at the establishment of UCAA, we had a paltry 118,000 international passengers for a whole year in and out. In 2017, we recorded 1.65 million passengers and in 2018, the number rose to 1.84 million passengers.
“For the first part of 2019, from January to June, we have recorded slightly over 900,000 international passengers in comparison to slightly over 800,000 recorded from January to June 2018. This means, already, for the first part of 2019, we have recorded over 70,000 new passengers. That is an indicator that by the end of 2019, we will record more passengers. The remaining part of the year is the busier period.”
What is contributing to the growth?
According to Luggya, a number of factors have contributed to the growth being realised over time.
“Tourism is the major contributor. First, Uganda is well endowed in terms of tourism potential in the form of attractions for tourists. Secondly, the promotion of Uganda’s tourism has gone to another level attracting many tourists. These tourists contribute a big number of travellers who come in by air,” he said.
He also noted increasingly, Uganda is now playing to international conferences, “Many international conferences are being hosted in Uganda; we recently had the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar being hosted here, Uganda is about to host the G77 Summit, there is also the 64th Commonwealth Parliamentary conference coming up.
These events attract many heads of state as well as delegates who come by air leading to growth in numbers.”
The increasing number of Ugandans going for work especially to the Middle East has also played a role. “The number of Ugandans going to work abroad, especially in the Middle East has gone up, something that has also grown the passenger traffic,” Luggya said.
Increased frequency of flights: Emirates operates two flights three times a week, Brussels Airlines operates daily flights, Kenya Airways has 6 flights a day five days a week while on the other two days it operates 5 flights while Ethiopian Airways operates about 29 flights a week to Entebbe.
Uganda Airlines: Uganda Airlines commences flights on August 28 and Luggya believes this will also boost the air traffic to Entebbe Airport.
Domestic air transport
According to Luggya, domestic air transport is not growing much as international air travel mainly because of better road networks, improved security as well as the cost of domestic tickets. “The cost of domestic tickets is a little bit higher probably because there have been fewer players. Now that new players are coming on board, fares are likely to go down.”
Tips for first for a first time air traveller
UCAA Manager Public Affairs Vianney Luggya advises first-time air traveller to look out for the following if they are to have pleasant flights:
• Check for visa requirements (depending on the destination)
• Get the yellow fever jab and move with your card
• Passport (Some countries in East Africa may not need a passport)
• Ticket: Double check to establish authenticity of the ticket
• Time: Be at the airport at least 3 hours before check-in time
• Weight: Check for weight requirements to avoid last-minute disorganisation
• Security: Travel light (avoid metallic belts, chains, perfumes and gels of more than 100ml in hand luggage)
By Edna Kyokunzire