Relaunched in 2018, Uganda Airlines received their first Airbus A330-800neo last week. The wide-body long-range jet is one of the two Uganda Airlines ordered last year. In 2019, the company received two Bombardier CRJ900 jets to add to the other two CRJ900 they already had. The acquisition last week brings Uganda Airlines’ fleet to 5 aircraft.
The wide-body A330-800neo (New Engine Option) aircraft manufactured by the European plane-maker, Airbus is part of the regular Airbus A330 family but using larger and more advanced engines. Airbus is engaged in the revitalization exercise for both the A321 and A330 aircraft version by using the more efficient engine in these kind of jets.
According to Airbus, a brand new A330-800neo aircraft costs a whopping US$ 260 million. So the already cash-strapped Uganda Airlines will need to cough out US$ 520 million for the two A330-800neo planes. Whether the airline will get its return on investment for the purchase of the two capital assets in this COVID-19 season is yet to be seen.
Uganda Airlines was relaunched in 2018 following the relaunch of Air Tanzania in 2016 by the Tanzanian president John Pombe Magufuli. It is worth to note that Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania used to have one air carrier called the East African Airlines. However, the airline went bankrupt in 1977 after accumulating a debt of US$ 120,000,000 (equivalent to US$ 510,000,000 in 2020 after adjusting for inflation).
After the collapse of the East African Airlines, the three countries launched their own national carriers. Surprisingly, Uganda was the first to launch their airline in 1976 followed by Kenya and then Tanzania a year later. But it will be Uganda’s national airline that will fold first after going out of business in 2001.
Uganda Airlines: Company Profile
As we discussed above, Uganda Airlines was first launched in 1976 with anticipation of the disintegration of the East African Airlines. But Uganda’s national carrier ceased operations in 2001 following a streak of losses over the years. However, the company will be resuscitated nearly 20 years later in 2018.
As of November 2020, Uganda Airlines flies to 8 destinations including to Nairobi, Mogadishu, Dar es Salaam, Juba, Kilimanjaro, Zanzibar, Mombasa and Bujumbura. With these destinations, the Uganda’s national carrier uses the Bombardier CRJ900 jets. These jets are configured to carry passengers in three classes: Business Class, Premium Economy and Economy.
With the acquisition of the long-range wide-body A330-800 neo aircraft, the airline plans to start intercontinental flights from Entebbe International Airport to various destinations in Europe, Asia and the Middle East. These routes are slated to commence in mid-late 2021.
Unlike the airline’s Bombardier CRJ900 aircraft which are configured to carry 12 passengers in the business class and 64 passengers in the economy class, the much larger A330-800 neo aircraft is configured to carry passengers in all the airline’s three classes. The aircraft will carry 20 passengers in business class, 28 in Premium Economy and 213 passengers in the economy class for a total of 261 passengers.