More passengers embrace Uganda Airlines Dubai Route
Uganda Airlines launched its flights to Dubai on the October04, 2021, a major milestone for the national carrier because it marked the first intercontinental route on the Airline’s network.
The Airline is plying the route using the Airbus A330-800neo, one of the state-of-the-art aircraft on the market.
The airline started with three weekly flights to Dubai, with days and times carefully selected to match travelers’ convenience and connectivity.
However, Uganda’s national carrier increased weekly flights to Dubai to four as passenger traffic for the Uganda Airlines on the route surged.
It has since been established that Uganda Airlines plans to increase weekly flights to Dubai to seven so as to meet the demands of the increasing passengers.
Shakila Rahim Lamar, the Corporate Affairs & Public Relations Manager at Uganda Airlines, says that the Dubai route has generally performed well since its launch five months ago.
“The passenger rate of travel has spiked since the reopening of the economy and it coincided with the closure of the Dubai Expo as well as the festive season. We are optimistic that we shall hit our Half-year target,” Rahim said in an exclusive interview.
Asked about the category of passengers Uganda Airlines carries on the Dubai route, Rahim said they are mainly business travelers, traders, Labour exports, tourists and permanent residents of the UAE.
She adds that the outbound goods range from mainly vegetables, coffee and raw materials, among others, while the inbound ranges from machinery, manufactured goods, textile, chemicals, luxurious goods, and processed foods.
On how Uganda Airlines is promoting the country’s tourism sector in Dubai and the Middle East, Rahim says the Airline is positioning itself as an enabler for business and mainly tourism by enabling the connectivity of tourists from different points of the region to Uganda. “We are working with our embassies and other partners in these destinations to promote tourism by ensuring that Uganda Airlines is the Airline of choice for Tourists flying to Uganda,” Rahim says.
Asked about the progress on plans to launch the frequent flier program, Rahim said: “The frequent flier program is still undergoing pretesting, and this will be rolled out soon. Our passengers are yet to enjoy another exciting experience from the time they are set to travel during their travel and after. This program has been designed not to look at how many times a passenger prioritises Uganda airlines but the value of that passenger to the sustainability of the Airline.”
Key lessons from the Dubai route
Rahim says Dubai as an international route has enabled Uganda Airlines to sharpen her sword for other impending long haul flights. “The foresight comes into perspective to streamline and optimise our processes, imagine new opportunities and look at how to improve our passenger experience, health and safety of our crew, monitoring the Covid-19 situation and ensuring passengers adhere to SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures),” Rahim says.
Inside the Comfortable Airbus A330
The Airbus A330 state-of-the-art aircraft which Uganda Airlines uses to ply the Dubai route has 20 Business Class seats, 28 Premium Economy Class seats and 210 Economy Class seats, bringing the total seat capacity to 258. Its capacity for cargo is 37 tonnes.
The food and drinks are mostly locally sourced to support the Buy Uganda Build Uganda (BUBU) policy.
Regular travelers who have flown various types of aircraft say Uganda Airlines’ Airbus is more comfortable, with enough legroom for passengers.
During the official launch of the Dubai route on October 09, 2021 at Dubai based Occidental Hotel, Jennifer Bamuturaki, the Acting Chief Executive Officer at Uganda Airlines, said before launching this route, they listened to customers and carefully came up with competitive packages.
“We are not necessarily cheap but we listened to our customers to give them the best offer. Our baggage allowance is unmatched; our rates will give passengers value for their money,” she said, adding that the Airbus also gives travelers a worthwhile experience.
In an earlier interview, Abel Mwesigye, the Chief Executive Officer at KACITA-Uganda, an umbrella body of traders, said that traders have already embraced the Dubai route using Uganda Airlines “because of the flexible terms Uganda Airlines has offered our members. These include loyalties, mileage and kilograms.”
He added that traders have decided to ‘fly the Crane’ because they will no longer have stop-overs because Uganda Airlines flights between Entebbe and Dubai are direct unlike some airlines that first stop in their home countries.
“Sometimes our cargo gets lost due to stop-overs and language barrier, but with Uganda Airlines, we hope this will be history,” he said.
He added that besides direct flights, traders have “a local feel because the cabin crew is largely made up of Ugandans.”
“The national carrier understands us. Most of us have retained our status, mileage. So that kind of understanding is making the airline unique. The airline is giving us preference. There’s a lot we stand to benefit by ‘flying the Crane’,” Mwesigye said.
It’s important to note that Uganda’s exports to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have grown from $300 million since diplomatic relations were established in 2009 to $1.85 billion in 2020. These are mainly precious minerals, high value crops and labour.
During the same period, investment figures rose from 150 million US Dollars to over 800 million US Dollars while remittances from the UAE currently stand at 200 million US Dollars. Uganda also spends millions of dollars on imports from the UAE.
Uganda Airlines started commercial operations in August 2019 and operates a fleet of four (4) CRJ900, and two (2) Airbus A330-800neo.