COVID-19 Recovery: Entebbe Airport Records Passenger Traffic Increase

by Christopher Kiiza
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Entebbe International Airport recorded a total of 842,429 international passengers (413,223 arrivals and 429,206 departures) in the first part of the year (January to June 2023), the Uganda Civil Aviation Authority (UCAA) has said.

This reflects 134,679 more passengers than was registered in the same period of January to June 2022 which recorded a total of 707,750 international passengers (326,384 arrivals and 381,366 departures).

Speaking to reporters in Kampala on Tuesday, the UCAA Director General, Fred Bamwesigye said the January to June 2023 traffic is also higher than that recorded before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in the same period of January to June 2019, which registered 836,472 international passengers (405,458 arrivals and 431,014 departures).

The COVID-19 pandemic had a significant impact on the aviation industry in Uganda. The industry was hit hard by the pandemic, with passenger numbers dropping significantly.

At the peak of COVID-19, passenger traffic at Entebbe International Airport fell to nearly zero as President Museveni closed the national borders, except for cargo and UN planes.

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The national carrier, Uganda Airlines, was forced to ground its fleet.

The increase in passenger traffic at Entebbe Airport is a positive sign that the country’s aviation industry is recovering from the adverse effects of COVID-19 which hit the industry to near collapse as governments across the world imposed total lockdown to combat the widespread spread of the pandemic.

 Artistic impression of the new passenger terminal building on completion

According to the African Airlines Association (AFRAA), around 54 million passengers flew by plane within Africa during the pandemic in 2020. In the previous year, twice as many traveled. The turnover of airlines on the continent decreased by around $8 billion.

The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) estimated full recovery of Africa’s aviation industry from the adverse effects of COVID-19 to take place in 2024.

“Going by the half year performance, Uganda may attain this by the end of this year. The increase in traffic is partly attributed to relaxation of COVID-19 travel restrictions across the globe, tourism promotion initiatives, coming on board of the national airline and attraction of more air operators to Uganda’s airspace through liberalization of air transport services, among others,” Bamwesigye said.

ENTEBBE AIRPORT EXPANSION

Bamwesigye announced that the project for upgrade and expansion of Entebbe International Airport is moving on smoothly, saying that it is at 85% level of completion, overall.

Part of the interior of the new passenger terminal building at Entebbe Airport

“Several sub components of the project have been completed, including srengthening and rehabilitation of runways 12/30 and 17/35 and the associated taxiways. Aircraft Apron 4, 2 and 5 were also completed. The only pending works are on expansion of Apron 1, whose works are on-going and construction of a new 20,000 square meters passenger terminal building, which is at 40% level of completion,” he said.

This will connect to the current terminal building.

On completion of all the works by July 2024, Bamwesigye said that Entebbe International Airport’s terminal capacity will be enhanced from the current 2 million passengers a year to at least 3.5 million passengers per year.

“We also have a separate project for expansion of the current terminal building, which is nearing completion. The departure area is already in use, and soon, a canopy to the terminal will be completed by September 2023 so that passengers are dropped-off by the terminal so as to simply move from the car to the terminal,” he said.

Uganda is scheduled to undergo a Universal Safety Oversight Audit Programme – Continuous Monitoring Approach (USOAP-CMA) to be conducted by ICAO in September 2023.

This will later be followed by the Universal Security Audit Programme (USAP) in 2024.

The USOAP – CMA Audit is undertaken to measure the level of compliance of a State in respect to the implementation of ICAO’s safety-related Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs) and associated procedures and guidance material.

The new Cargo Centre at Entebbe Airport

It is worth noting that the last safety audit was done in 2014 and the State scored above the then global average of 60%. The most recent ICAO audit on Uganda was the USAP audit conducted in 2017 in which the State scored 81.8%, which was well above the then global average of 72%.

ENTEBBE AIRPORT STANDARDS & UGANDA AIRLINES FLIGHTS TO UK

Uganda Airlines secured slots for departures and landing at London Heathrow Airport after receiving its two Airbus A330-800 Neo aircrafts in December 2020 and February 2021.

However, the national carrier has not made any trips to the United Kingdom.

There have been reports that the delay of Uganda Airlines to fly to the United Kingdom and ultimately the European Region who are governed by the United Kingdom Civil Aviation Authority and European Aviation Safety Agency respectively, was caused by the outdated certification status. 

It has been reported that this delay was based on the delayed resolution of issues raised by the last ICAO audit in 2014 such as legislation, organization, licensing, operations, airworthiness, accident investigation, air navigation services and aerodromes.

Some reports indicated that the Uganda Civil Aviation Authority (UCAA) failed to update its certification from the International Civil Aviation Authority (ICAO). 

UCAA RESPONSE

Bamwesigye said that the media reports mixed-up the safety audit by ICAO with Certification of Entebbe International Airport, which is different and is internally done by the Uganda Civil Aviation Authority (UCAA) on behalf of the state, not ICAO.

“The State, represented by UCAA is mandated to notify ICAO in case of non-compliance to specific standards through a Compliance Checklist (CC) /Electronic Filing of Differences (EFOD). This has not been done, given that Uganda fully complies with the standards, and has published a Regulatory Framework indicating compliance with the standards. The Certification of the airport is being done in line with the Regulatory Framework, as a planned activity, and we are on course to have the process concluded in time,” he said.

Bamwesigye added that the on-going certification of Entebbe International Airport has nothing to do with any airline flying in and out of Entebbe International Airport.

“That is why there are currently 16 reputable international airlines flying to Uganda,” he said.

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