PARIS: A delegation of about 30 government officials drawn from Ministry of Works and Uganda Airlines separately arrived in France last week to receive one of two Airbus planes, according to sources familiar with the matter.
The Airbus A330 Neo, which is expected to fly out of France to Uganda on Tuesday is one of the two planes purchased by government last year to enhance operations of Uganda Airlines.
A delegation, composed of about 20 government officials, left Entebbe International Airport en route Tourelles, France on Friday.
It was led by Works Minister Katumba Wamala to join an advance team led by Works Permanent Secretary Bageya Waiswa, which had earlier travelled out of the country last Monday.
The officials are in the country ahead of a handover ceremony expected tomorrow.
Details of the composition of the two delegations was not immediately clear but sources familiar with the matter told Daily Monitor, the bigger part had been drawn from Uganda Airlines.
Mr Perez Ahabwe, the Uganda Airlines chairman, who was part of the Katumba-led delegation, had before flying out confirmed two delegation had separately travelled to France for the handover ceremony .
However, he could not readily breakdown the actual composition of about 30 government officials now in France.
“Today [Friday] around 9:45pm, a high-powered delegation led by the Minister of Works and Transport will be living for France. The delegation today is around 20 people but there is another one led by the permanent secretary [Works Ministry], which left [last] Monday. I think it is a total of about 30 people picked from various government agencies,” Mr Ahabwe told Daily Monitor on Friday before flying out with the Gen Katumba-led delegation.
The Bageya-led delegation, Mr Ahabwe said, had travelled ahead to handle technical aspects while the Katumba-led delegation was “going for the [handover] ceremony and some other paperwork”.
The first Airbus, according to Mr Ahabwe, will officially be handed over tomorrow while the second one is expected by the end of January.
The two planes, which bring the number to six, are expected to enhance Uganda Airlines’ long haul operations.
Last year, Uganda Airlines acquired four light flight 72-seater planes for shorter routes, especially within East Africa and some parts of Africa.
The two Airbus planes, Mr Perez said, have cost government close to $145m inclusive of buyer furnished equipment and some spare parts.
They will mainly fly, he said, to Dubai – Abu Dhabi, London – UK, Guangzhou – China, Mumbai – India and some routes in southern and West Africa.
Uganda Airlines currently operates shorter routes to Bujumbura (Burundi), Nairobi (Kenya), Dar es Salaam and Kilimanjaro (Tanzania), Juba (South Sudan) and Mogadishu (Somalia).
However, the airline plans to launch new routes to a number of metropolises such as Kinshasa (DR Congo), Asmara (Eritrea), Addis Ababa (Ethiopia), Lusaka (Zambia) and Harare (Zimbabwe).
Mr Ahabwe told Daily Monitor, the arrival of the airbus planes will give Uganda Airlines an opportunity to immediately begin flights to Dubai – Abu Dhabi, which the airline has already secured accreditation.
“We shall immediately begin flying to Dubai. We have already been accredited. In the meantime we are working on London [Gatwick or Heathrow] and hopefully by end of February we should have got that one and in a few weeks we hope to get Johannesburg,” he said.
Revived after years
Uganda Airlines was founded in 1976 but was liquidated in 2001 during a broader push to sell struggling state-owned enterprises.
However, government in 2018 yielded to demands from various stakeholders including tourism promoters and players and National Planning Authority that had expressed frustration, especially in marketing Uganda as a tourism destination.
In August last year, Uganda Airlines was relaunched after almost 20 years of closure, banking on passengers from the country’s emerging oil industry and the tourism sector.