Following last week’s demonstration flight to South Africa, Uganda Airlines has officially received certification to operate its Airbus A330-800s on scheduled passenger services. This means that the rare and eye-catching bird may soon be spotted not only in the skies above Africa but also in London, Dubai, Mumbai, and Guangzhou, according to the airline’s network expansion plans. However, reports have emerged of unqualified pilots having been rostered to fly the plane.
A new world of connectivity
The Ugandan flag carrier was relaunched in 2019 as the successor to the old national airline with the same name that operated between 1977 to 2001. However, up until now, Uganda Airlines has only been operating regional routes with a small fleet of four CRJ-900s.
Meanwhile, the carrier always had its sights set on destinations further afield than the African continent. As such, as soon as it had been officially established, it placed an order for two Airbus A330-800neos. One was delivered in December last year, and the second arrived in February 2021, with a slight delay due to a local power outage.
“The wait is over! Uganda Airlines’ big cranes, the Airbuses, have been added to our Air Operator’s Certificate (AOC) and will soon be set to fly long-haul. Welcome to a new world of greater connectivity,” Uganda Airlines tweeted on Thursday, later sharing a video announcing the aircraft’s upcoming destinations.
Welcome to a new world of greater connectivity. The #AIRBUS A330-800 neo has been added to our AOC and soon we will be flying the crane long haul to DUBAI, LONDON, MUMBAI and GUANGZHOU. Welcome aboard. #FlyUgandaAirlines #VisitUganda pic.twitter.com/yGPrFQjFxy
— Uganda Airlines (@UG_Airlines) August 20, 2021
The airline had expected to add the new widebodies to its Air Operator Certificate (AOC) before summer. However, the process ended up lasting for six months and was only just completed following last week’s demonstration passenger flight from Entebbe to Johannesburg.
Little existing competition, apart from Dubai
No dates have yet been set for when flying will commence, and tickets are yet to be released on the airline’s website. As such, there is also no price point available at this time. At the moment, there are no direct flights between Entebbe and London, Mumbai, and Guangzhou. However, both flydubai and Emirates operate direct services from Dubai, the former with a Boeing 737-800 and the latter a 777-300ER.
Potential pilot fast-tracking
However, the arrival of the rare A330-800 to Entebbe is not without turbulence. According to recent reports that have emerged along with allegations of corruption, a manager of the airline allowed pilots with under 500 hours of experience to undertake Airbus training.
Sources also claimed that even pilots who had failed simulator training had been put on the roster for the A330s, which, if true, could be a threat to the safety of everyone on board.
Airbus has only sold 15 of the A330-800. Apart from Uganda Airlines, the only carriers to order the smaller version of the A330neo are Kuwait Airways, Air Greenland, and Garuda Indonesia.
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