With several passengers getting stranded at airports because they cannot connect to their destinations, East African regional airlines are negotiating for more frequencies while others are asking for new routes.
The increasing number of people using air transport yet airlines have little capacity has made flying in the region difficult.
It is estimated that 100 passengers can not connect to their destinations weekly, with some waiting for four days before getting flights.
“On average about 20 passengers miss flights daily,” Dr Richard Masozera, Rwanda Civil Aviation Authority (RCAA) Managing Director estimated.
To address the suffering and inconvenience passengers are subjected to, both governments and the private sector are in talks to increase flight frequencies.
Business Times has learnt that Air Uganda is set to start flights from Entebbe to Kigali in its major expansion drive.
Kenya Airways also plans to increase its frequency on the Nairobi-Kigali route, from one flight daily to two.
While Rwandair Express, the Rwanda national carrier plans to start daily flights to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. The airline has been flying to Kilimanjaro.
Aviation players say the airlines’ move to introduce more frequencies and open new routes is going to up competition on these growing and lucrative routes.
Rwandair has been monopolising the Kigali-Entebbe route. But currently the airline has little capacity to fly the growing number of passengers on the route. Several passengers get stranded at airports.
But with Air Uganda on the route, it’s hoped that more people will be able to travel as they wish and have booked.
Peter De Waal, Air Uganda Executive Director said negotiations with the Rwanda government to grant them the Entebbe-Kigali route have started.
“There is a possibility to start the (Entebbe- Kigali) route within two or three months time,” De Waal said on phone when contacted.
He expects to introduce a 99 seater aircraft on the route which is slightly bigger than 50-seater plane Rwandair uses on the route.
Masozera said the Rwanda government has okayed Air Uganda to start flying to Kigali.
“The negotiations are in early stages,” Masozera said.
The two countries—Uganda and Rwanda have a bilateral air agreements. Under these agreements, airlines from sister countries can operate in each other country.
Business Times has also learnt that Kenya Airways targets to start a second flight between Kigali and Nairobi, a move that will also ease movement of passengers between the two destinations.
Dr. Masozera said negotiations with Kenya airways have started. RCAA and Kenya Airways held the fast meeting recently.
The second flight is expected to be in the morning, unlike the current one which is in the afternoon.
According to a source in Kenya Airways who spoke on condition of anonymity, saying is not a spokesperson for the airline; Kenya Airways badly needs to build more capacity to meet the increasing bookings and survive in the competitive aviation business.
Stakeholders in the aviation industry say that if Air Uganda is granted permission to operate the Kigali-Entebbe route, then passengers who have been getting stranded for days before they connect to other destinations will be relieved.
The airline entered several interline agreements with Brussels Airlines, KLM, British Airways, Air Tanzania, Virgin Atlantic, Emirates, and Qatar.
With these agreements, passengers holding either carrier’s tickets can be carried on any of the airlines.
Air Uganda currently flies to Nairobi, Kilimanjaro International Airport (Tanzania) and Julius Nyerere International Airport in Dar es Salaam (in Tanzania).
About Air Uganda
The company was set up through the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development (AKFED) and Meridiana Eurofly of Italy. AKFED is the main shareholder.
Air Uganda is also part of Celestair Group that comprises other airlines like Air Mali and Air Burkina in West Africa.