Airline Startup Of The Week – Uganda Airlines

After a nearly 20 year hiatus, Uganda Airlines is back. Revived by the Ugandan government, the carrier hopes to improve access to the landlocked country and facilitate better transportation for those seeking to travel in and out of the East African nation. While not completely new to the scene, Uganda Airlines is our airline startup of the week.
Airline Startup Of The Week – Uganda Airlines
The Uganda Airlines CRJ is the first of its kind fitted with the ATMOSPHÈRE cabin in Africa. Photo: Bombardier
As mentioned above, this airline is not a totally new start-up. In fact, it was founded in 1977. However, after some difficult years, the government moved to have the airline cease operations in 2001.

An airline for Ugandans

Ugandan daily newspaper New Vision wrote a summary of speeches that took place during the inauguration of this new airline’s Board of Directors.

Of interest were remarks made by Minister of Works and Transportation, Eng. Monica Azuba, who explained that Uganda is a non-coastal country and the aviation industry will guarantee the country direct international access.

“[The] Government’s objective is to ensure that Uganda’s air links makes it one of the best connected countries in the world, so that it can compete for economic growth opportunities. To achieve this objective, [the] Government came up with a strategy to leverage Uganda’s geographical location to become a regional hub for air transport,” – Monica Azuba

Airline Startup Of The Week – Uganda Airlines
Uganda Airlines should have a comfortable A330-800. Photo: Airbus

Azuba also brought up the fact that Ugandan passengers were getting inconvenienced on other carriers due to scheduling changes. The result is that Ugandans must wait long hours to get to their destinations, she claims. The minister also noted that even short journeys, Entebbe to Arusha, for example, take several hours longer because of connection times.

Furthermore, Azuba says that setting up a national airline will enhance the country’s competitiveness by reducing the cost of air transport as well as reducing connectivity issues to and from Uganda.

The Uganda Airlines fleet

In April of this year, two Bombardier CRJ900 aircraft ordered in July 2018 were delivered. The new airline’s CRJ900s have the ATMOSPHÈRE cabin for its upcoming debut, making it the first operator in Africa with this enhanced cabin experience. Currently, these two aircraft comprise the entire fleet of the airline.

“We are thrilled to commence our operations with the world’s leading regional jet, and we look forward to providing the most modern passenger experience in regional aviation to the people of Uganda and across Africa,” – Ephraim Bagenda, CEO, Uganda National Airlines.”

Airline Startup Of The Week – Uganda Airlines
The delivery ceremony accepting the first CRJ900. Photo: Bombardier

Earlier this year, Uganda Airlines also firmed up their order for two A330-800neo aircraft for their medium- and long-haul routes. The aircraft can fly up to 8,150 nautical miles and will utilize Rolls-Royce’s Trent 7000 engines.

Uganda Airlines will operate these large aircraft from its hub at Entebbe International Airport. Uganda Airlines has indicated a few long-haul routes that they could serve:

  • Dubai
  • London
  • Mumbai
  • Guangzhou

Unfortunately, we do not yet have a delivery date for these widebodies.

Officials say the government is undertaking “many interventions in the aviation sector” which aim to develop Uganda as an aviation hub. This includes upgrading and expanding the infrastructure and facilities at Entebbe International Airport.

Airline Startup Of The Week – Uganda Airlines
Uganda Airlines signed an MOU for 2 A330-800neo aircraft in 2018. Photo: Airbus

The official launch is nearing…

We’ll have to wait and see how this airline will actually perform. For the first two Bombardier aircraft, commercial operations should commence later this month:

“We promised that the first flights of our airline will be on 31st July and we are still standing by that date…We have started advertising the routes, so we should be ready to go by 31st July, we didn’t say 1st July, we said 31st July.” – Katumba Wamala, State Minister for Works

According to PML Daily, the Government confessed that it will take Uganda Airline ten years to make profits. This means that 2029 is the likely year the airline will become profitable.


Uganda’s GDP is roughly one-third of its eastern neighbor Kenya. Furthermore, the airline will have to compete with airlines like Kenya Airways and the African powerhouse that is Ethiopian.

Do you think the country’s plans for the airline are too ambitious? Is this a case of national pride more than untapped economic potential? Or do you think there will be a bright future for the airline? Let us know by leaving a comment!