Airlines within East Africa have never been this competitive, but with the ever improving regional integration, Tanzanian and Ugandan airlines are bracing up to cash in on the travel pie that has previously been a domain of the Nairobi-based Kenya Airways.
Air Uganda(that came into operation in November 2007)launched daily flights between Entebbe in Uganda and Kigali in Rwanda at the end of February 2010. The quick 50-seat Canadian Regional Jet now flies daily with morning flights from Monday to Thursday and evening flights on Friday through Sunday.
The 15-minute morning flight is expected to attract business passengers who were previously forced to pass through Nairobi as Rwandair which was the major operator on the route, offered afternoon and evening flights only. With the introduction of the Air Uganda flights business travellers now have a wider choice as they do not have to spend a night in Kigali or ply the longer route through Nairobi. What is more, travellers are over the first three weeks following the launch flying at a subsidised rate of US$99. This is currently the lowest fare in eastern Africa.
The entry of Air Uganda that also has two daily flights to Nairobi, Dar es Salaam and Juba and three-weekly flights to Zanzibar and Mombasa, brings to six the number of points it serves in the eastern Africa region.
While Air Uganda’s entry on the route is likely to bring relief to business travelers, the airline’s expansion programme leaves a lot of doubts over its capability to sustainably operate and withstand the cut-throat competition on the route that is also plied by Rwanda’s national carrier, RwandAir, and big players Kenya Airways, SN Brussels and Ethiopian Airlines. Air Uganda is owned by Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development.
On the other hand Tanzania, that is also hoping to cash in on the growing number of travelers within East Africa, is upgrading her Julius Kambarage Nyerere International Airport upgraded. The project is funded by The Netherlands and Tanzania to the tune of US$56 million; a new VIP lounge and a third terminal are to be constructed. A new taxi way is also to be constructed and the general expansion of the airport carried out.
At the completion of the project the new VIP lounge will accommodate up to 75 guests and the airport is expected to handle more than 30 planes per hour up from the current 11. It will also handle seven million passengers per year. Though designed to handle 1.2 million passengers, the airport is handling up to 1.5 million passengers, something that leads to its being congested.