The Minister of Works and Transport Gen Katumba Wamala has urged Ugandans to support Ugandan brands as Uganda Airlines flags off 500 pilgrims to Mecca, Saudi Arabia.
The national carrier is carrying 200 Muslim citizens making the trip for the Hajj pilgrimage aboard its 258 capacity Airbus A330 aircraft.
Hajj is one of the Five Pillars of Islam, alongside Shahadah(Oath to Allah & Muhammad PBUH), Salat(prayer), Zakat(almsgiving) and Sawm(Ramadan fasting). Hajj, the 5th pillar, is an annual pilgrimage to Mecca (Saudi Arabia) that every adult Muslim who is physically and financially able must make at least once in their lifetime. It is one of the most significant religious journeys for Muslims worldwide, gathering millions of Muslims from all over the World in Mecca and Medina to perform holy rituals and seek spiritual fulfillment.
“I urge all Ugandans to promote and support Ugandan brands the same way they support foreign brands,” said Gen Katumba.
He noted that the operation is an opportunity for pilgrims to travel direct to Jeddah.
“And some of them are elderly, some of them may have language difficulty but now on the Uganda Airlines flight, they can be able to communicate in their local languages since our attendants can speak the local languages hence making them comfortable,” he said.
He added that the maiden flight to Mecca is a landmark and the Muslim community should be happy that they will be able to make the pilgrimage using the national carrier.
Speaking to the media, Uganda Airlines CEO Jenifer Bamuturaki said the flight to Jeddah is a very historic turn for the country and the airline since it is the first flight in 40 years.
“We took 200 passengers though there was a challenge with their visas coming out on time and then tomorrow we shall be taking another 250,” she said,
She revealed that the airline plans to establish scheduled flights in Saudi Arabia by September.
“The operator’s permit that we currently have will go up to July next year and we shall extend it to July (the year after). On our scheduled flights, we have a plan to start flying to Jeddah in September and we shall be doing three flights a week,” said Bamuturaki.
She added, “Internally, we are grappling on when to do that because we are working with many stakeholders but the interesting bit is we already set up a sales team representing us in Jeddah so we are doing everything towards the launch of flights, so we would not go beyond September.”
According to Bamuturaki, using Uganda Airlines for the Mecca pilgrimage shortens their journey since they do not have to go through intermediary points because it is a direct flight.
“It took us seven months to put this together, it is not something we did just the other day.”
Third Deputy Prime Minister Lukia Nakadama thanked the Ministry of Works and Transport for enabling Uganda Airlines to take the first batch of pilgrims to Mecca.
“I want to thank all those who have supported us as Uganda in promoting the Uganda Airlines. I want to request the pilgrims to also pray for our country, the President and all of us. We call upon those who are able to do so when the time comes,” she said.
HE Dr Jamal AL Madani; Ambassador of Saudi Arabia to Uganda said the government in Saudi Arabia is always doing its best to sell the hajji and “I wish the pilgrims a safe travel going to Mecca and coming back.”
The return flights will be operated from Medina to Entebbe in July 2023.
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