Nairobi — Two-year old Air Uganda has set the stage for its expansion beyond regional borders, with the launch of a daily flight between Entebbe and Kigali.
Coming on the back of a fleet rationalisation strategy that has its edge away from the larger MD 87 aircraft to the more nimble 50-seat Canadian Regional Jet (CRJ), Air Uganda’s entry into the Rwandan market brings to six the number of points it serves in the region.
Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo remain the only destinations out of the carrier’s orbit.
The morning departure to Kigali – at 8am Ugandan time – is also expected to attract passengers who were previously forced to pass through Nairobi as Rwandair, which was the major operator on the route offered afternoon and evening flights only.
“With the 50-seat jet, the airline can now access more markets and offer business travellers a wider choice as they do not have to spend a night in Kigali or take the longer route through Nairobi,” said Fredrick Ochieng-Obbo, the chief executive officer of East African Airlines.
Other airlines on the route are Kenya Airways and Ethiopian Airlines.
Both Air Uganda and Rwandair, were, however, quick to point out that they were complementing rather than competing with each other, emphasising that Air Uganda’s entry on the route would also grow new traffic.
“It translates to added value for the customer and accords us the opportunity to work together,” Michael Otieno, Rwandair head of marketing and corporate.
Otieno said regional integration had triggered a remarkable increase in the number of travellers, with Rwandair registering load factors averaging 70 per cent across its network.
The two carriers have already entered an inter-line agreement that allows them to swap passengers, although the finer details were still being ironed out by the time of going to press.
Air Uganda, which is owned by the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development, goes to Kigali shortly after acquiring a second CRJ aircraft, further augmenting its capacity to sustainably operate the route and survive the cut-throat competition in the point to point market currently dominated by Kenya Airways.
Sources close to Air Uganda said Kigali is the pedestal on which two other destinations within the region will be launched in the next two years.
Source: All Africa