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Uganda Airlines Sets Sights for Heathrow Airport Summer 2023 Launch As UK CAA Offers Intermediaries
Uganda Airlines is aiming for a summer launch for its long-anticipated service to London’s Heathrow Airport, after the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) offered the carrier the option to operate flights through intermediate airports in Algeria, Egypt, Kenya, Morocco, Tunisia, or Turkey.
These airports already have existing security ratings from the UK CAA, while delays in commencing a security audit of Entebbe International Airport have been a major hindrance to commence this service.
“We had already set up at the airport, what is left is for us to set up a marketing office and reactivate the slots we had been previously allocated,” the CEO Jenifer Bamuturaki said speaking to the East African.
Uganda Airlines’ Available Options
According to the CEO, the Ugandan flag carrier has two options: waiting for Entebbe International Airport to go through a security audit by the UK CAA which is estimated to take about two years, or using a third-country airport with the necessary clearances.
Of the seven options, Ghana has already been eliminated because its requirements are similar to the UK’s and the Ghana CAA would have to audit the security status at Entebbe International.
“Kenya is a good option but, like Morocco, Turkey and Tunisia, it would involve some deviation off the regular flying track,” Ms Bamuturaki said.
Barring unlikely concessions, the intermediate stop will be purely technical with the Ugandan carrier not allowed to pick up onward traffic. All passengers and crew on the flight will have to disembark and go through the passenger screening process at the intermediate before getting back on board.
The airline is now examining the suitability of Algeria and Egypt because they align best with Entebbe from an operational perspective.
Delays and Challenges They’re Facing
Officials at Entebbe International Airport have argued that Uganda’s main gateway is suitable for flights to the UK, as KLM Royal Dutch Airlines and Brussels Airlines both operate departures to Europe from there.
British Airways also ran four flights a week between Entebbe and Heathrow until it suspended flights to Uganda in 2015.
Entebbe last underwent the International Civil Aviation Organisation’s Universal Safety Audit Program in 2017, but hasn’t had the Universal Safety Oversight Audit Programme (USOAP) since 2014.
An audit of the airport was scheduled for 2020 but was postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic and another audit is now scheduled for October 2023.
The airport also needs time to address gaps identified in the earlier audit, mainly concerning skills and personnel.
Uganda Airlines has encountered several challenges in its bid to launch services to London, including securing a type certificate for its Airbus A330s in August 2021.
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