President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda has promised to re-launch the services of national air carrier Uganda Airlines within the next five years to reduce travel costs for Ugandans according to the Daily Monitor.
Speaking at the inauguration of his new cabinet of ministers on June 6, Museveni described Uganda’s lack of a national air carrier as a big shame, adding that the country stands to earn as much as $400 million a year if its airline resumed services:
“Ugandan travellers are suffering because of, apparently, not having a national airline, A ticket to Nairobi costs between $1,100-1,200 (business class) and $500-700 (economy class) depending on the time of booking while a ticket to London costs between $2,700-3,000 (business class) and $1,000-1,300 (economy class). This is a big shame.”
The erstwhile Uganda Airlines began operations in 1977 with its hub at the Entebbe International Airport and offered scheduled flight services on domestic, regional, and international routes. By the early 1990s, however, burdened by the weight of mismanagement and corruption, Uganda Airlines had become debt-ridden and nearly insolvent. Authorities had to choose between liquidating the airline and privatizing it.
A number of other airlines had expressed interest in acquiring the assets and liabilities of Ugandan Airlines, but they soon abandoned their prospective bids; the Ugandan government was forced to liquidate its national carrier in May 2001.
Between 2007 and 2014, Meridiana Africa Airlines – a private concern – operated as Air Uganda. Within that period, it was largely considered as the national carrier of Uganda. However, it had to suspend scheduled flight operations after its certification was withdrawn by the International Civil Aviation Organisation.
Musuveni, who was in office as President of Uganda when the airline was liquidated, also had words of rebuke for other African airlines that currently service the Ugandan route:
“I thought that our brothers in Ethiopia, Kenya, South Africa, etc. having airlines would serve all of us. That, however, is apparently not the case.” He then added that “the airlines of our brothers and sisters that benefit from Uganda should have remembered to treat our children as their own because our purchasing power is supporting them.”