My ears popped as I nodded to a jazzy rendition of Rema and B2C’s “Gutujja” while Jolly, our air hostess handed me my light lunch, a tasty beef tortilla, a frigid glass of mango juice accompanied by a small specially packaged bottle of Wavah water and some fruits on the side.

“Dang it! Still no Rolex today!?” The thoughts in my head.

Kilimanjaro was behind us and we were returning home that Wednesday afternoon, having launched Uganda Airline’s 7th route since its revival at the end of August; the scenic Entebbe – Kilimanjaro triweekly flight.

Quite a bummer that we didn’t see the great mountain on our way to or from Kilimanjaro but the journey that lasted 1 hour and 15 minutes both ways had “aerial views to impress”, and there was perhaps no better seat than the one at the window, right next to the wing.

Uganda Airlines flying over Lake Victoria

At the start of the week (Monday – 11th November 2019) Uganda Airlines had introduced the Entebbe – Mombasa direct flight and together with the Kilimanjaro route, the three countries would potentially boost trade and tourism within the region. This route was seen to cut most of the available alternatives by more than half the travel time.

A croissant, Jesa Yoghurt, one almost-ripe sweet banana, and a bun had been served for breakfast as the plane began to cruise shortly after takeoff from Entebbe International Airport in the morning.

Oh, and I also got served a hot cup of Ugandan coffee. I still believe Uganda provides some of the best varieties of coffee tones on the planet.

Did I ever tell you how much I dread the sight of foreign coffee brands lined up at Ugandan events?

Both ways, I thanked the heavens that UR (as the airline is technically referred to) had made a couple of right decisions on not only Buying Uganda to Build Uganda (BUBU) but promoting the quality things – Ugandan.

A couple of minutes back we had trekked the sunshiny tarmac from the VIP lounge at Kilimanjaro International Airport and were back aboard our plane with the words “Uganda Airlines” inscribed to its sides.

We had successfully enjoyed an event donned in Black Yellow Red with a toast of Champaign glasses, we had witnessed the famous water salute, but onboard this time around; and had participated in the making of history.

It came alive at this point; the thought that this East African country’s national carrier, which had been grounded since 2001, was indeed back for real. No, I didn’t pinch myself during the flight but I smiled within.

Uganda Airlines arriving at Kilimanjaro International Airport
the feeling of being on board during a water salute is indescribable

Onboard the UR332 inaugural Uganda Airlines flight to Kilimanjaro was, Uganda’s Tourism Minister, Prof Ephraim Kamuntu; Uganda’s State Minister for Works, Hon. Aggrey Bagiire; Uganda Tourism Board Deputy Chief Executive Officer, Bradford Ochieng; the Board Chairman Uganda Airlines Dr. Pereza Ahabwe; the Acting CEO Uganda Airlines, Paul Turacayisenga; a team of local media and other passengers en route to Kilimanjaro.

Don’t ask me how I got on this flight, haha. The Association of Uganda Tour Operators is where my bread is buttered.

What they said:

“I crossed with Tanzanian soldiers in 1979, and today if you did a DNA test in Uganda you will realize a big percentage of people with Tanzanian blood. Our airline is back to reunite you with your brothers and sisters across the border. The majority of Uganda’s tourist numbers come from within the region and that’s why this flight is important to us.” – Uganda’s Tourism Minister said at the launch.

Prof. Ephraim Kamuntu
with Uganda’s Tourism Minister, Prof. Ephraim Kamuntu

“We have missed the crane. We congratulate the government of Uganda. Please do not allow it to disappear again”. – CEO, Kilimanjaro Airports Development Company (KADCO)

“We are positive that our new connection will provide an enabler for tourism and trade especially since many of our customers love the two fantastic destinations, Uganda and Tanzania. There are some exciting developments which we will add soon, including Kinshasa, Lusaka, Addis Ababa, Zanzibar; before we launch the longer flights”. – Acting CEO Uganda Airlines

“On 28th August 2019, we landed at Julius Nyerere International Airport in Dar es Salaam. Today we are landing in the same country for the second time. We are going to provide an excellent and efficient air service to this region and beyond”. – Board Chairman Uganda Airlines

“787 and 777 aircrafts land here with hundreds of passengers onboard. If we can share this traffic, we can spur trade and tourism in the region. Together with the current flights by Air Tanzania and Precision Air we will be able to reduce in the travel time and cost”.  – Uganda’s special envoy to Tanzania spoke at the launch in Kili.

“For those who managed to fly the crane today, I am glad to tell you that Uganda Airlines gives you a pleasant flight”. – Uganda’s State Minister for Works & Transport said

“We want to cooperate and not compete. Let’s see how to make Uganda Airlines bring people to Dar es Salaam where they can board our newly launched Dreamliners to Mumbai in India and Guangzhou in China while we also market exciting tourist sites in both countries”. – Tanzania’s Minister for Transport

Uganda’s national carrier currently operates scheduled flights to Nairobi, Dar es Salaam, Juba, Mogadishu, Bujumbura and the recently launched Mombasa and Kilimanjaro routes.

A few personal thoughts after flying Uganda Airlines yesterday

I think Uganda Airlines is off to a very good start

I could feel the conviviality on the plane we flew; the team is welcoming and gives you the feeling that “we got this”. Needless to say that I enjoyed flipping through “Ng’aali”, Uganda’s inflight magazine.

With no bias, the takeoff and landing for both legs of the flight were one of the smoothest I’d ever experienced which confirms what I hear being thrown around that “Uganda always had some of the best pilots on the continent, although most of them left after the collapse of the airline several years ago”.

I have also read many positive online reviews about the flexibility but also punctuality of the airline so far; something that UR was most popular for in the past.

The truth is, our flight departed much later than planned; quite the usual practice when you have top government VIPs on board, but largely because this was not a commercial flight and there were a number of ceremonies to perform.

I have had a few chats with the airline’s staff, but also discussed with a few friends in the travel and tourism industries. In fact, after the flight yesterday I visited Anthony Njoroge the Aerolink Country Manager to pick his mind on the same. Awesome guy!

My clever mind has come to agree that firstly, we should focus on developing these shorter routes before launching the longer flights to Europe, Asia, and North America. Of course, this is largely premised on the notion of what makes business sense in the short term. Efforts could actually be in growing strong cargo and ground handling services because that’s where most airlines make their monies.

I also believe that the recently launched routes to Mombasa and Kilimanjaro can be combined, of course depending on how luxuriant the traffic is. Looking at the schedule below shared by the airline at the launch event, this seems to already be planned. Smart thinking.

I also would throw my two cents at including a stopover in Gulu for the Entebbe – Juba route which would be a plus for operators in the tourism industry. This would mean breaking the journey for vacationers heading to Kidepo Valley National Park, and it would bring tourists closer to Murchison Falls National Park; while also picking up business travelers from Gulu for onward transfers to Juba and vice versa; my two cents.

Of course, a couple of revamps are necessary for Gulu Airfield to allow for the landing of the aircraft and perhaps an extension of immigration services to upcountry airfields. I recall reading that some of the upcountry airstrips were uplifted to entry ports. Uganda’s Ministry of Works, Civil Aviation Authority and Immigration can make this happen.

Lastly, I also believe the airline could work out some partnerships with domestic airline companies like Eagle Air, Aerolink, Kampala Executive Aviation on some code-sharing arrangement for some of the flights within the country, for example, those leading to the national parks and upcountry airstrips where Uganda Airline’s current fleet cannot land. This would make fly safaris more attractive. It might also make sense for Uganda Airlines to sell some of these as extensions to their incoming international flights for tourists to book as a bundle, which to me is a more complete experience. This would be an extra income for Uganda Airlines and the domestic carriers.

That said, I congratulate the management of Uganda Airlines for the positive strides made thus far.

UGANDA AIRLINES’ CURRENT FLIGHT SCHEDULE – To Be Updated

Nairobi, KENYA

 

EBB – NBO
Days Flight No. Departure Time Arrival Time
Mon, Tue, Wed, Thu, Fri UR202 0600 0715
Sat, Sun UR202 0800 0915
Mon, Tue, Wed, Fri UR206 1230 1345
Mon, Tue, Wed, Thu, Fri, Sat, Sun UR204 2005 2120
NBO – EBB
Days Flight No. Departure Time Arrival Time
Mon, Tue, Wed, Thu, Fri UR203 0745 0900
Sat, Sun UR203 0945 1100
Mon, Tue, Wed, Fri UR207 1415 1530
Mon, Tue, Wed, Thu, Fri, Sat, Sun UR205 2200 2315

 

Mombasa, KENYA

 

EBB – MBA
Days Flight No. Departure Time Arrival Time
Mon UR342 1130 1320
Fri UR342 1400 1550
Sun UR342 1700 1850
MBA – EBB
Days Flight No. Departure Time Arrival Time
Mon UR343 1350 1700
Fri UR343 1620 1930
Sun UR343 1920 2230

 

Dar es Salaam, TANZANIA

 

EBB – DAR
Days Flight No. Departure Time Arrival Time
Mon, Tue, Wed, Thu UR320 1300 1450
Fri UR320 1915 1105
Sat, Sun UR320 1145 1335
DAR – EBB
Days Flight No. Departure Time Arrival Time
Mon, Tue, Wed, Thu UR321 1535 1725
Fri UR321 1150 1340
Sat, Sun UR321 1420 1610

 

Kilimanjaro, TANZANIA

 

EBB – JRO
Days Flight No. Departure Time Arrival Time
Mon UR342 1130 1505
Fri UR342 1400 1735
Sun UR342 1700 2035
JRO – EBB
Days Flight No. Departure Time Arrival Time
Mon UR343 1545 1700
Fri UR343 1815 1930
Sun UR343 2115 2230

 

Mogadishu, SOMALIA

 

EBB – MGQ
Days Flight No. Departure Time Arrival Time
Tue, Thu, Sat, Sun UR520 0637 0900
MGQ – EBB
Days Flight No. Departure Time Arrival Time
Tue, Thu, Sat, Sun UR521 1000 1219

 

Bujumbura, BURUNDI

 

EBB – BJM
Days Flight No. Departure Time Arrival Time
Mon, Wed UR360 1545 1600
Fri, Sun UR360 1900 1915
BJM – EBB
Days Flight No. Departure Time Arrival Time
Mon, Wed UR361 1640 1855
Fri, Sun UR361 1955 2210

 

Juba, SOUTH SUDAN

 

EBB – JUB
Days Flight No. Departure Time Arrival Time
Mon UR122 0700 0825
Tue, Wed, Thu, Fri UR122 0945 1110
Mon, Wed, Thu, Fri, Sat, Sun UR120 1455 1620
JUB – EBB
Days Flight No. Departure Time Arrival Time
Mon UR123 0905 1030
Tue, Wed, Thu, Fri UR123 1150 1315
Mon, Wed, Thu, Fri, Sat, Sun UR121 1700 1825
Uganda Airlines leaving Entebbe International Airport

Uganda Airlines Contacts

Uganda Airlines Kampala Call Center:  +256 (0) 200 406 400

Uganda Airlines Entebbe Contact: +256 (0) 200 406 420

Uganda Airlines Nairobi, Kenya Contact: +254 707 900 777

Uganda Airlines Juba, South Sudan Contact: +211 928900500

Uganda Airlines Bujumbura, Burundi Contact: +257 759 88000

Uganda Airlines Mogadishu, Somalia Contact: +252 615 550 020

Uganda Airlines Email Address: reservations@ugandairlines.com

Uganda Airlines Website: www.ugandairlines.com

Written by 

My old folks call me Jonathan Benaiah but I prefer to go by as “The Ugandan Tourist“. I love to travel, write, take photos (of nature mostly). Ask me my best kind of trips and I'll tell you that it's those moments which allow me enough time in the African bush.