COVID-19:Air Transport Industry Is On Life Support, But Uganda’s Flagship Brand; Uganda Airlines Prepares To Fly Again

Uganda Airlines

President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni announced during his 14th National Address on COVID-19 that the country is gradually easing down on the Coronavirus lockdown and that public transport is set to resume after two weeks.

Although the President talked about easing movement of vehicles and motorcycles, he didn’t mention anything about passenger flights, whether domestic or international, meaning that Entebbe International Airport is not yet about to resume operation.

Passenger flights at Entebbe International Airport were suspended in March this year following a directive by President Museveni, as a way of preventing the importation of COVID-19 cases into the country from Category One countries.

However, ever since the closure of the airport, several airliners that used to pry Uganda’s skylines like Ethiopian Airways, Kenya Airways, Emirates Air etc have since been grounded, and many of them are counting losses.

But while the above companies and other airliners across the globe wallow in a melee of huge losses, the country’s airliner Uganda Airlines, which was revived last year after decades in limbo, has since been affected, after canceling many bookings they had made including plans to open new routes prior to the COVID-19 lockdown.

It should however be noted that Uganda Airlines Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Conwell Muleya, is optimistic that the Corporation will resume normal business as soon as President Museveni lifts the lockdown.

“We had been operating 8 routes across the week. We have planned to increase to 10 routes. Specifically, during this time, by now we would have opened the route to Kinshasa. We would have opened Johannesburg to South Africa. We would have gone further south to Connect to Harare and maybe Lusaka. So those plans were obviously halted,” said Mr. Muleya during a recent interview with UBC.

Conwell Muleya, CEO Uganda airlines
Conwell Muleya, CEO Uganda airlines

He added that “So now we are working behind the scenes to ensure that we finish all the permissions that are required across these networks. And we are going globally across all the routes we want to fly to, including the long-hauls like London and Dubai. In fact we have already secured permission to fly to Dubai.” He added.

Commenting about when Uganda Airlines will resume operations, Mr Muleya said that; “The opening of the skies will be gradual. Different countries have been impacted differently in terms of this pandemic to the international population. And International travel has its associated risks of reinfection. So because of that, many countries will be very cautious about the timing for reopening up the skies. So that’s one risk that we see. The second one is the individual customers. After the skies are reopened how many will be able to travel?”

He also noted that “What is understood internally is that as Airline, we know what is required in terms of protecting the public and passengers. It is necessarily not going to be cheap in terms of the industry because several expenses have come up.

Global Airline Companies Affected By COVID-19

Although Uganda Airlines is grappling with the adverse effects of COVID-19, it is not the only company that has been negatively impacted by the pandemic.

Below is a list of some of the world renowned airline companies that have been affected and the drastic measures they have taken so as to remain afloat, although most of them have since gone bankrupt;

Virgin Airlines fired more than 3,000 people including 600 Pilots.

– Virgin Australia filed for Bankruptcy.

– Air Mauritius went into Administration.

– South African Airways went Bankrupt.

 – Finnair returned 12 planes and laid off 2,400 people.

 – YOU grounded 22 planes and fired 4,100 people.

– Ryanair grounded 113 planes and fired 900 pilots for the moment, 450 more in the coming months.

– Norwegian Airlines completely stopped its long-haul activity!!!  The 787s returned to the lessors.

– SAS returned 14 planes and fired 520 pilots… The Scandinavian states are studying a plan to liquidate Norwegian and SAS to rebuild a new company from their ashes.

– Etihad canceled 18 orders for A350, grounded 10 A380 and 10 Boeing 787. Laid off 720 staff.

– Emirates grounded 38 A380s and canceled all orders for the Boeing 777x (150 aircraft, the largest order for this type). They “invited” all employees over 56 to retire.

– Wizzair returned 32 A320s and laid off 1,200 people, including 200 pilots, another wave of 430 layoffs planned in the coming months.  Remaining employees will see their wages reduced by 30%.

– IAG (British Airways’ parent company) abandoned the takeover of Air Europa (and will pay €40 million compensation for that).

– IAG (Iberia) grounded 56 planes.

– IAG (British Airways) grounded 34 planes.  Everyone over 58 to retire.

– Luxair reduced its fleet by 50% (and associated redundancies)

– CSA abolished its long-haul sector and keeps only 5 medium-haul aircraft.

– Eurowings went into Bankruptcy

– Brussels Airline reduced its fleet by 50% (and associated redundancies).

– Lufthansa plans to ground 72 aircraft (in two instalments).

– Hop is studying the possibility of reducing fleet and staff by 50%.

Currently, 60 new aircraft stored at Airbus with no buyers in sight (order cancellations) including 18 A350s.

They forecast a minimum of 8,000 grounded planes by September.  With an average of 5.8 crews per plane (medium and long haul combined), that would make more than 90,000 unemployed pilots worldwide.

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