By Hanning Mbabazi
Kampala: The Speaker of Parliament Rt. Hon. Rebecca Alitwala Kadaga has urged legislators and parliamentary staff to utelise and use the Uganda Airlines while on official duty.
The Speaker’s directive was revealed in a letter dated 16th October 2019 to the Clerk to Parliament Ms Jane Kibirige, copied to the Deputy Speaker Jacob Oulanyah and all Members of Parliament.
The patriotic move is aimed at boosting Uganda’s carrier that is hardly two months old in operation since it was grounded about 20years ago.
“As you may be aware that Uganda Airlines is now operational. It is important for the Parliamentary Commission to support the National Carrier,” Kadaga said.
“I therefore write to instruct you to ensure that all official trips of the Members of Parliament and the staff of Parliament while on official duty to destinations where the Airline operates are scheduled with Uganda Airlines,” reads Kadaga’s letter to Kibirige.
Uganda Airlines started commercial operations on 23rd August 2019 with a flight to Nairobi, Kenya. It has since had flights to Juba (South Sudan), Mogadishu (Somali) and Dar es Salaam in Tanzania.
Tororo South MP Fredrick Angura supported Kadaga’s directive saying that it was only incumbent on government to see how to support the National carrier to grow.
However, Dokolo South MP Felix Okot Ogong disagreed advising parliament and Ugandans that Uganda Airlines needed to be managed as a business on its own.
“There should not be other influence because when there is a directive that means other people are now managing Uganda Airlines which is totally bad. It should be managed as a business with principles and business strategy,” said Ogong.
He added that members should not be forced to use what may not be the best for them and that their choice should be directed by what the Airline offers.
Nakaseke South MP Lutamaguzi Ssemakula also disagreed with Kadaga’s directive saying that using Uganda Airlines should be by choice and not force since people like him are suspicious of it given the nature of operations of the country.
Kadaga’s directive follows that of President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni issued on August 5th, 2019 in a Cabinet memo ordering all government officials to take Uganda Airlines whenever they are going to destinations it flies to. The President then directed all cabinet ministers and ministers of state to ensure that his directive is carried out.
On 23rd April 2019, Uganda Airlines received the first two Bombardier CRJ900s which have been flying to the cities of Nairobi, Mombasa, Dar es Salaam, Kilimanjaro, Juba, Bujumbura, and Mogadishu. In September, the second batch of two Bombardiers was received and is currently being cleared for commercial flights.
Uganda Airlines also expects to receive two A330-800neo made by Airbus by end of this year. The Airlines expects to expand their route map and fly to DRC, Zanzibar, Asmara, Hargeisa, Lusaka, Harare, Johannesburg, Djibouti, and Addis Ababa, and plan to make international flights connecting Uganda to Europe, the Middle East, West Africa and Asia.
In 2017/2018 financial year, Uganda spent up to 421 billion Shillings on travel with all expenditures going to other airlines over the years. Government officials travel a lot for training, bench marking trips, and conferences and analysts say this is a key constituent of travelers that the airline has to tap into to be viable – in a country where most people don’t fly.
However, analysts warned that the airline should not allow travel on credit because government, oftentimes delays paying arrears something that may affect the Airline’s operatives.