Entebbe International Airport will receive 12 commercial passenger flights today, October 1, 2020, the first day of reopening the airport, after a six months break due to the COVID -19 pandemic. The incoming flights include Turkish, RwandAir, Ethiopian Airlines, Emirates, Tarco Air, and FlyDubai, among others.
The airport was partially closed on March 23, 2020, as a way of combatting the spread of coronavirus. During the time, only emergency flights, comprising mainly returning nationals and cargo, were allowed to land at the airport.
According to new guidelines issued by the Uganda Civil Aviation Authority-UCAA, each airline, apart from Uganda Airlines will operate only one flight daily in the first phase of the reopening, covering the months of October to December 2020. The national airline will operate two flights a day to Nairobi, four times to Juba and Dar-es-salaam, and thrice to Mogadishu.
Roger Wamala, Uganda Airline’s Commercial Director says that the airline has increased the cost of its commercial flight air tickets by an average of 3 percent to cater to additional costs such as personal protective equipment among others to combat the spread of COVID-19. He adds that the Mogadishu and Juba routes have so far attracted over 50 passengers per flight while Nairobi and Dar-es-Salaam are expected to pick up in the coming months.
As the airport reopened, Turkish Airlines was the first to operate a departing flight destined for Istanbul at 4:05 a.m, followed by Uganda Airlines flight to Mogadishu at 6:45 a.m. and Nairobi at 10 am.
Many tours and travel agencies are predicting a bad start for the tourism industry, with little or no bookings due to the economic and political situation of the country.
Eunice Nabukenya, a tour and travel agent says that it will take several months before air travel may regain its vibrancy. She says that her company has not yet received any bookings for the next three months, adding that the upcoming 2021 general elections could worsen the situation.
“Apart from people who will travel for medical and work-related reasons, I think tourists will start coming to Uganda after March next year,” Nabukenya says.
Before the partial lockdown, Entebbe Airport used to handle over 120 flights a day. However, due to limited space at the passenger terminal, only a few flights will take place daily so that airport staff, passengers, and crew members observe the health and safety measures such as social distancing.