Uganda Airlines has stepped up the competition for the east Africa skies with a flight on Nairobi-Entebbe route starting Wednesday with a plan for four other destinations later next month.
The airline’s first commercial flight will be to Nairobi from Entebbe at Sh28,684 ($278) for a return trip, approximately Sh14,342 one way.
Uganda Airlines will also fly to Juba, Mogadishu, Dar es Salaam and Mombasa as part of a total seven destinations in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, South Sudan and Burundi. Flights to Dar es Salaam will start at $286, Mogadishu at $545 and to Juba at $285 for round trips.
The new route network will offer competitive pricing for Ugandan flyers who have previously been connecting to various capitals through Nairobi, Addis Ababa or Kigali on Kenya Airways, Ethiopian Airlines or Rwandair respectively.
“This will mean improved connectivity and regional integration,” said Monica Azuba, Uganda’s Works and Transport minister.
The carrier will initially ply the routes with the four Bombadier CRJ900 planes. Two arrived in April while two are expected mid-September, said the CEO of the revived airline Ephraim Bagenda.
“We have also ordered Airbus (A330 Neo) which will take about 18 months to be delivered,” said Ms Azuba. The wide body planes will facilitate the long-haul routes when the airline grows its flight network by the government owned carrier.
Uganda Airlines will start with flights to regional capitals like Nairobi, but eventually plans to launch direct long-haul routes to China and other Asian countries, whose tourists Uganda is keen to attract.
KQ is already facing strong headwinds on its African and Asian routes as the average ticket has declined due to competition.
The entry of Uganda Airlines to its routes at lower prices is bound to set off price wars between the carriers.
KQ has previously stated that “this downward trend in fare is the result of increased competition and overcapacity on intra-Africa and Africa-Asia traffic.
Increased capacity by its competitors has already taken a chunk of the carrier’s revenue. The recent acquisition of planes by Uganda and Tanzania as well as the signing of a partnership between Ethiopian airlines and the Zambian government to revive the national airline for Zambia is only making the skies bumpier for the airline.