14 November 2012

Uganda: Improved Roads Slow Air Travel

Kampala — As Entebbe Airport continues to witness increasing international passenger numbers, domestic air travel numbers are in negatives, a source has said.

Mr. Ignie Igunduura, the Public Affairs Manager, Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) told the East African Business Week on the sidelines of the 23rd International Federation of Air Traffic Controllers' Associations Meeting in Kampala last week that the major reasons as to why the passenger numbers are in negatives is as a result of the improving road network and good security.

"Domestic air travel is not growing; actually it is in the negatives. While international passenger volumes are growing, the local operations are slowing down, they are actually dropping," Igunduura said, adding, "We think as the road network around the country becomes better, air transport does not therefore become attractive because one is then able to use their own transport."

He also added that lack of an airport in the city area has also made air travel in Uganda look less attractive since more time is spent on the road from the airport to the city than the time spent flying.

He said, "someone flies from say Arua to Entebbe in 45 minutes, gets onto the small road and spends one and a half hours on the road to Kampala. So if it is a businessman who has come to Kampala and has to travel back to Arua, it means that he will spend three hours on the road and only 90 minutes in the air on both legs of the journey. So until we get a city airport, the upcountry aerodromes may not be very active."

Igunduura also said that the security situation in the country currently has also made air travel within the country less attractive since it is safe for one to drive to any part of the country. He advised that government needed to put more emphasis on tourism marketing and establish a national airline if domestic air travel is to grow.

"The airline business like any other business is driven by profits and market forces. There have been a number of attempts to start routes between Entebbe and the various but the passenger numbers have always been very low. We need to therefore increase on tourism marketing so that tourists can easily move from one tourist site to another in a short time," he said.

Igunduura said that the national airline would help by bringing passengers from the up country aerodromes and feeding them onto other routes. Similarly, government is in the process of building to new airports in Kasese, Western Uganda and Gulu in Northern Uganda. Igunduura told the East African Business Week that the master plan studies and engineering drawings had been submitted to government.

He said that the total cost of the two projects is estimated at $340m.

"We are elevating these two aerodromes to international level, where this will mean there will be 24hour operations, lengthening the runways, building the passenger terminal buildings, runway lighting, warehouses for cargo among others," he said.

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