As Uganda Airlines prepares to start flying to different parts of Africa, some of the players in the local industry are worried that the national carrier will raid their businesses and sweep away their staff by offering them better financial packages, writes JUSTUS LYATUU.
Last week, officials from Uganda Airlines, while defending their application for a licence before the Civil Aviation Authority’s (CAA) Air Service Licensing committee in Kampala failed to convince private players on their strategy on a staffing plan.
Phillip Gill, the founder and CEO of Kampala Executive Aviation (KEA), complained that the private sector injects a lot of money in training pilots and other crew and it was in order for Uganda Airlines to train theirs.
“We don’t have many pilots in Uganda but we are seeing a national carrier that is coming in the market with no clear training plan and likely to take our already trained staff. That will mean more costs of training, which affect businesses,” he said.
He added; “Everybody spends on the market, especially on training. We spend between Shs 20 and Shs 40 million training staff. When people see the big aircrafts, they will want to move and that will leave us with gaps.”
KEA is licensed for aircraft operations under CAA Uganda and has been operational since 2008. Ephraim Bagenda, the Uganda Airlines chief executive officer, said that the national carrier would recruit a big number of its staff from within the country.
“Ugandans will be given the first priority. People should not be worried. Soroti Flying School is producing pilots so there is no need for other players to be concerned,” he said.
Bagenda added: “Ugandan pilots are the least paid compared to Kenya and Rwanda. So, private players should pay handsomely or lose out. People cannot apply and we fail to give them jobs.”
The airline officials said their first task is to attract the local travelers, which they estimated to be 60 per cent of all the traffic at Entebbe International Airport. Uganda National Airlines Company will start their air operations with 19 destinations in Africa.
“We are planning to build an airline that is Uganda-centered before we go international. We also realized that government and agencies travel a lot and we want to tap into that,” he said.
Bagenda added: “We are going to make Entebbe our full operational base for our local market. We have to succeed here; how will we attract others if we fail to attract our own people.”
To kickstart, the officials said the government is in the final stages of purchasing four bombardier CRJ 900 aircrafts for the start. Uganda Airlines plans to fly outside the continent in 2024.
Statistics from CAA indicate that last year Entebbe handled 1.53 million passengers, up 8.1 per cent compared to the year 2016. Of the airport’s total traffic last year, 99 per cent flew on international services, with only 18,824 domestic passengers using the terminal in 2017.
The only airlines offering domestic services from Entebbe are Eagle Air and Aerolink Uganda. Vianney Luggya, the CAA spokesperson, says the authority recorded 6,600 tonnes of cargo for both imports and exports in 1991, but by the end of 2017 the numbers had grown to 59,000 metric tonnes.