Uganda Airlines will now commence its first commercial flight next month in August and not in July as earlier communicated. The Minister of Works and Transport, Eng Monica Azuba said in a statement to parliament that rescheduling is due to the fact that the revived national carrier is yet to get an air operating certificate (AOC) from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). Government revived the Uganda National Airlines that was established in 1977, but ceased operations in 2001. This year in April, two Bombardier CRJ900 aircraft were purchased from Canada at Shs 280bn – with more aircraft expected into the country to make up the six-aeroplane fleet. It was expected that the airlines would start operations in July, but now minister Azuba says that can’t be possible as the new expected date for the AOC is July 28. “The targeted date for the issuance of the air operating certificate to the airline by CAA 28th July, 2019. This means that Uganda Airlines can fly after that date. Already the booking, the reservations, the ticketing and accounting systems of Uganda Airlines have been activated but in a test environment. The systems have been set up using the provisional IATA designator and IATA accounting codes. The issuance of the air operating certificate will therefore trigger the activation of the codes in a live environment.” said Azuba.
On top of the the AOC, the airline must secure foreign air operator permits and licenses from destination countries before it can fly. Some of the first planned destinations according to Azuba include Kenya, Tanzania and South Africa with Ethiopia, Rwanda and Sudan expected to be added later with the arrival of two more aircraft in September. Azuba said the airline is now at stage four out five in securing an AOC.
UGANDA AIRLINES BOARD
Meanwhile, a section of members of parliament has asked government to comply with an earlier resolution of parliament to present a list of board of directors of Uganda Airlines for scrutiny and approval. Kasilo County MP, Elijah Okupa, raised a procedural matter during the plenary session, accusing Azuba of defying parliament by failing to present the list of the appointed directors.
Okupa questioned the competencies of those appointed to the board, saying the process wasn’t transparent and is one of the reasons behind the delayed commencement of commercial flights.
The Shs 280bn budget for the purchase of the first two planes was passed by MPs in April on condition that the ministry presents the list of board of directors before parliament’s Physical Infrastructure committee for scrutiny and subsequent approval.
Okupa said that despite the appointment of the board, the minister hasn’t presented the list as directed by parliament. The Aruu South MP, Odonga Otto accused government of appointing inexperienced people to serve on the board. Kalungu West MP, Joseph Ssewungu wondered if the national carrier has the required office space, saying there are reports that the recruited staff are sitting in the Eagle Air offices in Entebbe.
Cabinet recently approved the seven-member board of directors of Uganda Airlines chaired by Godfrey Ahabwe Pereza, the former Rubanda East MP and Local Government state minister. The board also has Transport economist, Benon Kajuna representing ministry of works and Transport and Godfrey Ssemugooma representing the ministry of Finance.
Other members are Catherine Asinde Poran and Rehema N. Mutazindwa, the two female nominees are from the private sector while, Charles Hamya and Stephen Aziku Zua are also board members.
Oulanyah said that the minister was not defiant in failing to present a list of board members but supported Okupa’s query on the failure of the planes to commence commercial flights in July. In her response, Azuba confirmed that the board had been appointed and promised to avail the list to the committee next week.
She said it took Cabinet about three weeks to approve the board but described the requirement of taking names to the committee as unprecedented but not too late.
Azuba refuted allegations that those appointed on the board are not experienced, saying that there were robust interviews and those that went through are the best of the lot. Further, she said the Uganda Airlines offices are currently located at the premises of Eagle Air and that the office space is being rented.