ONE DOESN’T CHANGE HORSES SO SOON INTO THE RACE
(Posted 17th January 2020)
I have been challenged over my changed stand on Uganda’s new national airline, Uganda Airlines (www.ugandairlines.com) given my known reservations and objections expressed here when the initial idea was floated.
To this day I maintain that my reasons voiced back then were valid and that the funds allocated to the new airline could have been put to good use for health, education, social services and other perennially underfunded areas of the government budget.
That said of course, once the powers that be pressed ahead with the new airline project, and the first six aircraft were ordered – four fully paid for and already in operation – and the delivery of two more secured with a major deposit – the airline became a reality and there was no point lamenting. Mine, and everyone else’s job now is to help and make the airline a success.
Within months of launching operations does Uganda Airlines already serve 8 destinations out of Entebbe, flying to Nairobi, Mombasa, Dar es Salaam, Zanzibar, Kilimanjaro, Bujumbura, Juba and Mogadishu.
The launch of Johannesburg flights has already been announced though no firm date given as yet.
More destinations and added frequencies are in the final stages of planning, interline agreements are under negotiation and the airline’s technical department is getting ready for key safety audits under the auspices of IATA.
Then, out of the blue, emerge news that forces clearly intent to throw spanners into the works of the airline’s success, clearly intent to ‘muscling’ into the executive corridors of the airline and clearly intent to pursuing their own hidden agenda, want to change the CEO, again.
Ephraim Bagenda, launch CEO of the airline, was moved a few months ago to head the engineering and maintenance department, something he was reportedly happy with, and the Chief Technical Advisor Cornwell Muleya was made Acting CEO.
It was a crucial time for Uganda Airlines, in short called UR – their IATA two letter code – as new destinations were rolled out at a fast pace and the organizational set up took roots.
Muleya, formerly CEO of ALS in Nairobi / Kenya and then CEO of Air Uganda – an airline he turned around before it fell victim to the machinations of the CAA at the time – has the experience and the required skills to run an airline, that is beyond doubt. Muleya also served in CFO and CEO capacities for such other carriers like Air Mauritius, Air Botswana and Arik Air, in other words is no novice to the industry and well versed in both challenges and opportunities for African airlines.
What is under doubt though is the warped logic to appoint a new CEO at this moment in time. It would be disruptive to say the least and have the bosses of airlines in neighbouring countries, which already feel the heat of Uganda Airlines’ market success, roll on the floor laughing for the opportunity to make up lost ground should a leadership vacuum be imposed on UR.
Long haul aircraft – two Airbus A330-800Neo are on order and due for delivery in late 2020 and early 2021 – are to join Uganda Airlines soon and preparations are in full swing to obtain the required landing rights and decide on the first intercontinental destinations – not something to be taken lightly and not something one would like to see disrupted by a leadership change, especially one which is unnecessary and uncalled for.
Let the Board of Uganda Airlines give policy directives to the CEO and set him targets but beyond that, let him run the show and prove to the shareholders – which comprise all Ugandans for that matter – that he can lead the new airline into a period of growth and make routes profitable.
That said, it should otherwise be hands off from outside meddling into the airline’s affairs, lest names be named and names be shamed!