Uganda’s national carrier, Uganda Airlines, has recently been granted landing rights at Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport located in southern China. The airline announced the news across their social media pages over the past weekend.
Uganda Airlines (UR) will use its new Airbus A330-800neo for the new route on a weekly basis. According to UR’s head of public relations Shakira Rahim Lamar, the route aims to particularly serve the business community, students, government officials and diplomats from Uganda who have ties with China. It will also ease cargo operations between the two countries which started in September, 2021.
The airline, which has its base at Entebbe International Airport, will be flying to China for the first time since the pandemic. Lamar shared some of the benefits of the new route for UR:
“Currently, there is no direct flight from Entebbe to China, which brings an amazing opportunity to tap into this gap. Before the Covid-19 pandemic, there were more than 25,000 passengers from China to Uganda, according to 2019 travel data.”
China is a prime international destination for Ugandans for business especially. “Yes, the rights were granted and it is good news for the industry because China is among the top three destinations for people departing Uganda,” said Mr Vianne Lugya, the spokesperson of the Uganda Civil Aviation Authority.
The two countries share a strong trade relationship, with trade between the two nations totaling over a billion US dollars in 2017. In 2020 alone, Uganda exported goods worth over $400 million to China.
The new Uganda-China route will definitely boost business relations as local business owners and traders will be able to fly directly to the Southern Chinese province.
On the other hand, there still seems to be a barrier to travel as visas are not readily being granted. Mr Isa Sekito, the spokesperson of Kampala Capital City Traders Association (KACITA) expressed this:
“It’s one thing to allow landing but it’s another thing to grant people visas to be able to travel. Visas to China are still locked, we have been trading online. So after this, the visa issue should also be sorted and we should not only allow Chinese to come here but also allow Ugandans, especially credible businessmen, to go to China.”
Calling on the relevant authorities to step in, he also said, “If we are able to go directly to these factories and bargain while looking at the goods, it's advantageous because while trading online, we have had incidences of receiving what you didn’t order for.”
The Civil Aviation Administration of China’s (CAAC) decision to grant the landing rights follows China’s decision to gradually reopen its borders for international travel.
However, the airline is only allowed one flight per week to China, except to Beijing and Shanghai for undisclosed reasons.
Prior to the pandemic, Guangzhou Airport was the world’s busiest airport, with over 40 million passengers passing through it in 2020.
The current Uganda Airlines is the new and improved version of the former Uganda Airlines that operated between 1977 to 2001. The East African carrier only started flying again in August 2019. Its fleet comprises four Bombardier CRJ900s and two Airbus A330-800neos.
The airline currently serves 12 destinations with 2 underway, i.e., China and the UK, its second and third intercontinental destinations. Its flights to London will occur 3 times a week. In 2019, over 80,000 passengers flew between Entebbe and London.
Sources: Simple Flying, Zawya