By Andrew Irumba
Entebbe: The Jennifer Bamututaki Led administration at Uganda Airlines last year kicked off the US$3 million (shs11.3B) worth project of self-handling with a target of employing over 200 Ugandans, an act that will reduce the unemployment rate among our youth.
The Airline took the decision of self handling after realizing that it was spending over US$250,000 per month on contracted maintenance and ground-handling operations. This meant that the national carrier was losing about US$3m (Shs11.3bn) annually on contracted self-handling services.
With this new move, Uganda Airlines says they are now able to handle their passengers through check-in, ensure the security of its passengers, their baggage, groom the aircraft (clean the aircraft) and carry out ramp services.
The airline also noted that with the project, the Airline will reduce the cost of operation by 60%.
“We will be able to do some of these things that we were not able to do. We will be able to save some money and invest in other things. In two or three years, it means we can also handle other airlines and this self-handling saves money in a way that all the flights start from Entebbe, our hub. We are able to handle all the flights going to the 11 destinations. So, the grooming, handling of the aircraft all start here, because we have transiting passengers also (from Juba, Bujumbura, Kinsasha – going to Dubai) returning to their countries of origin,” Lamar Shakilah, the PRO told journalists.
Lamar says that the Airline is now looking into developing its cargo operations.
“That’s why we are ordering two freighters – long haul and short haul to carry cargo regionally and globally. Because we now think that the next gold is in cargo. During COVId-19 (induced lockdowns), so many airlines turned their aircraft for carrying cargo. That is where we want to go as an airline.”
Meanwhile, on his part, Derrick Ouma, the Team Lead and Duty Manager of the project says; “We just need a little more equipment to push what we already have. The processes have already begun. So, where there are gaps, those can be addressed, especially manpower gaps but in terms of training, we are already there in terms of the training and skilling that the airline has given the team. We are already working on an approved training organization. A lot of the staff are actually trainers. So, all we need is a few approvals with CAA (Uganda Civil Aviation Authority) and we can start conducting our own in-house training.”
He added that self-handling falls under the ground-handling department and it involves passenger services, baggage handling, cargo handling, GSE maintenance (workshop), ramp handling and general ground operations.
Uganda Airlines which started its commercial operations in 2019 currently operates a fleet of four (4) CRJ900 and two (2) Airbus A330-800neo.
Despite COVID-19 disruptions, the national carrier carried 154,245 passengers in 2021 compared to 93,780 in 2019 and 2020 combined.
The National Carrier has expanded its network to 11 destinations since its inception.
According to the airline’s business plan, in the second year of operation, the National Carrier had planned to have 18 and four (4) regional and international routes respectively, but this couldn’t be possible due to COVID-19 effects.