By Uganda Online Media
Entebbe: At the end of 2021, United Arab Emirates (UAE) suspended flights from Uganda to Dubai until further notice.
Ever since the ban, passengers from Uganda have been barred from entering Dubai 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.
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.
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.
According to Uganda Airlines CEO Jennifer Bamuturaki, “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 deploys its Airbus A330-800neo to the Middle East 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.
“We are now realizing an average of 50,000 to 60,000 US Dollars per flight. So you can see that it is playing out well,” says Bamuturaki adding that they are now carrying more cargo without passengers than it was with passengers.
Dubai is one of the top four routes from Entebbe International Airport, with an average of 17 flights a week. These flights are operated by Uganda Airlines, Emirates, Fly Dubai, Kenya Airways and Ethiopian Airlines.