By Baker Batte
President Museveni has confessed to being one of the people who buried the old Uganda Airlines more than 20 years ago. All its assets including five aircraft left behind by former President Idi Amin’s government were disposed of.
Museveni was speaking yesterday soon after the first two new Bombardier CRJ900 aircraft from Canada touched down at Entebbe International Airport.
The two planes are part of a six-aeroplane fleet planned for a revived Uganda Airlines expected to start operations in July.
“I was among the people who buried the old airline but here I’m among the midwives delivering a new baby,” Museveni said.
For it to be profitable in the face of cutthroat competition from established regional and international airlines, Museveni said the new Uganda Airlines should target four major constituencies.
These are; Ugandans in the diaspora, Asian-Ugandans who were expelled by Idi Amin in the 1970s, Ugandan businesspeople and tourists.
“Sometimes bad things create good things. During Amin’s time, very many Ugandans ran away because of insecurity and when they got where they went, they established themselves and they always want to come back. So, you should establish their exact figures. That diaspora in North America, UK and Southern Africa is big but find out how big it is because they are always travelling,” Museveni said.
He added that tourists who come to Uganda are always inconvenienced by several stopovers in different capitals like Nairobi, Addis Ababa and Kigali.
“What will happen if a tourist can fly direct from UK to Entebbe or from Guangzhou to Entebbe or from Amsterdam to Entebbe?” Museveni said.
He said the country will save in the excess of $400 million in foreign exchange which Ugandans travelling outside pay for their trips. Monica Azuba Ntege, the minister of Works and Transport, said the problem of Ugandans paying high prices for travel has finally been solved.
“Ugandans have depended on foreign airlines but they have unreasonably high tariffs and unfair services. It’s the beginning of a new era where Ugandans will get the air services they need and deserve,” Azuba said.
She, however, admitted that building an airline is no simple task. She said the road ahead is very challenging. But she was quick to add that as government, they have got a clear sense of direction to make sure that the problems, which forced other airlines to close shop, don’t reoccur.
“Ugandans are happy and excited about the revival of Uganda Airlines… the new airline is yours and it’s for you, government has invested heavily so that it can serve your needs; take advantage of it and patronise it as your airline of choice, then it will be able to sustain high-quality services,” Azuba said.