By Bethsheba Achitsa
Published April 7, 2010
If one thought that air wars within eastern African skies were over following Air Uganda’s flight introduction of a daily flight between Entebbe and Kigali, the battle for African skies is an unfinished business.
Air Uganda that has since inception been faced with dwindling fortunes as a result of what is termed as poor management is not resting after expanding to Rwanda. Hugh Fraser, the man at the helm of Air Uganda, is set on turning Entebbe into the fastest hub within East Africa by offering 30 minute interval connections.
Fraser, who took over from Peter de Wal in May 2009, is reported to be set on reducing the airline’s operational costs by 30% and streamlining fleet by using the smaller, more fuel-efficient Canadian Regional Jet. Under his stewardship the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development-owned airline has already replaced three 99-seater Mac Donnell Douglas MD 87 aircraft with a pair of the more fuel efficient 50-seater Canadian Regional Jet series.
Air Uganda is also reviewing new routes to the Democratic Republic of Congo and is evaluating other points in Tanzania, Burundi and Sudan.
The airline, which has had Juba as one of its success destinations largely due to the absence of other jet operators on the route from Entebbe, now operates 17 flights a week between Uganda and Kenya with three flights serving Mombasa while the airline also serves Dar es Salaam six times a week.
While Air Uganda may not pose a major challenge to the dominant Kenya Airways that has been a dominant force within East African skies and beyond, the Kenyan airline has to work harder than ever as Ethiopian Airlines is intruding not only into Kenya’s backyard but is opening new destinations other than increasing its frequency.
Ethiopian Airlines is now flying daily to Mombasa and three times a week to Monrovia; the Monrovia flight also covers Conakry in Guinea. The airline has also added four weekly flights to Dar es Salaam, another Kenya airways popular city and two weekly flights added to Accra, Bamako, Dakar, Juba and Lubumbashi. As a result Ethiopian Airlines is now flying 68 times a week to East African destinations.
The two airlines “KQ and ET” seem not content battling for East African skies and are extending into West Africa competing for passengers in Accra, Abidjan, Dakar, Douala, Kinshasa and Lagos.
On her part KQ, that operates a smaller fleet of 26 aircraft against ET’s 38, plans to open new routes to traditional Ethiopian destinations of Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso and Luanda in Angola in addition to Jeddah in Saudi Arabia and Juba in Southern Sudan.