27 March 2019

Uganda Airlines Should Get Basics Right Before Takeoff

editorial

Even before the revived Uganda Airlines' first flight takes to the skies, there are already worrisome murmurs about the recruitment process and salary structures.

There is a group, which includes legislators, that thinks it should be involved in the appointment of the airline's management professionals (pilots, engineers, managers).

Others think ground managers such as the chief accountant should earn more than the pilots. The defunct airline, which closed in 2001, was partly grounded by political interference.

There are already indicators that politicians have turned themselves into airlines professionals whose advice, however undeserved, should be unquestionably accepted. If indeed, the airline is being revived for patriotic reasons or simply to keep up appearances in the region, then we are getting off on the wrong foot.

Recruitment of staff, should be based on merit, and does not have to necessarily reflect national character for the sake of it. Regional balance may not yield added value in an airline business in which we are playing second fiddle.

The industry standards do not tolerate mediocrity. After almost a 20-year hiatus, Uganda Airlines needs to return to the skies with something untraditional. It is returning to the skies, when the market is saturated with players with superior fleet and unmatched experience. Therefore, as a small airline, it's bound to struggle.

The success of any airline leans heavily on the economy and its tourism-related infrastructure. The upcountry aerodromes are not up to standard to handle daily flights. Save for Miss Curvy and the Tulambule campaigns, the government has been terrible at marketing itself as a leisure destination.

The country needs a strong and integrated tourism board to attract international tourists. It has a lot of nature and heritage to offer. Without a significant increase in tourists, it is difficult for the aviation sector to maintain existing operations in the long run, given the small market size.

Beyond that, it is about securing big investments in basic infrastructure, which boosts tourism. Some of these should have been considered before deciding to revive the airlines. It appears government is keen on protecting Uganda from the risk of foreign competition.

Before we hit the skies, the national carrier needs to focus on getting the basics right. The national carrier needs to focus on low margins but with full fees paid for every seat whenever in the air in order to keep the airline afloat. Otherwise, we wish you the best of luck.

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