Brussels Airlines is ready to relaunch Entebbe flights but is Uganda ready too?


(Posted 15th June 2020)

All aviation eyes are now on the Ugandan authorities, awaiting the decision when scheduled passenger traffic into and out of Uganda will be permitted again.
Uganda closed airports and land borders back in March when a number of #COVID19 cases entered the country through mostly Ugandan travelers returning from abroad, who became ill while outside the country.
While a handful of repatriation flights were since then taking place, these services needed special permission from both Uganda and the destination country to operate.

For air traffic to resume in Uganda will first the dusk to dawn curfew need to be lifted, as many intercontinental flights arrive in Entebbe late evening and leave for the return service also at night.
In Europe of course will the EU also have to lift movement restrictions into and out of the main Schengen area, and while for instance Brussels Airlines resumed passenger flights earlier today with the first post lockdown service leaving Brussels for Rome, will air and other transport beyond the Schengen zone also first need to be officially sanctioned again before intercontinental and flights to other European destinations can resume.

Making the situation worse has the Uganda Civil Aviation Authority issued what can only be seen as an ultimatum to the government that they require approximately 40 million US Dollars to get the airport ready to comply with ICAO guidelines and meet health and safety regulations for passengers.
They have already indicated that travelers will need to report to the airport at least 4 hours before their flight takes off to process them through perimeter security, terminal entrance security, check in, immigration and departure gate security – besides additional measures not yet completely spelled out in regard of health regulations.

What is known is that travelers will have to present a certificate that they tested #COVID19 negative, not older than two days, but what is missing is a list of approved medical institutions, clinics and doctors from which / whom such certificates will be accepted. Guidance is awaited from the Ministry of Health, itself focusing on entry point checks and arguably not having the added capacity to handle potentially hundreds of passengers a day wishing to leave the country at a go.

Brussels Airlines, in an earlier press release shared on had indicated that they would like to return to Entebbe in mid July, with the flight routing from Brussels via Kigali to Entebbe before returning to Belgium. This will give the airline time to build up connectivity to European destinations but also to the US, as and when that country permits scheduled passenger flights to return.

Inbound travelers too need to know what health and safety regulations await them and it remains to be seen if Uganda puts into place a list of countries from where they will accept travelers without the mandatory and self paid 14 day quarantine, which is seen by aviation pundits as the largest obstacle for travelers to choose come to any country where such rules apply.

What is not known is how many frequencies an Entebbe service will offer to travelers, but the pre-COVID19 daily services will definitely not come back at once, as usually well informed sources have suggested to that the airline may restart with initially three flights – and a fourth service via Bujumbura to be added later in August.

All flights will have to make money when flights resume‘ suggested a Brussels based source, pointing to the financial situation of the Lufthansa Group, which owns Brussels Airlines. Lufthansa received a 9 billion Euros bailout from the German government and subsequently indicated that the group’s fleet will see an overall reduction of at least 100 aircraft, some of which will be retired early or returned to the lessors, as applicable. The Lufthansa Group comprises besides Brussels Airlines also Swiss International, Austrian Airlines, Eurowings and of course the main Lufthansa German Airlines.

Finally has it been suggested to that KLM may for the time being only fly to their main East African hub in Nairobi and Kenya Airways would then have to uplift passengers on connecting flights to Entebbe, though formal confirmation is awaited from the Dutch national airline. Should they indeed opt for that modus operandum, could passengers be subjected thrice to health and safety measures, once before leaving Amsterdam, once when transiting in Nairobi and then once more when arriving in Entebbe.
There is no survey in place as yet to determine, just how much ‘pain’ travelers are prepared to go through in order to travel and what will in the end determine their decision where they want to travel to.

Some new level of normality to air transport is now only expected when a safe vaccine has been developed and travelers, like they carry Yellow Fever inoculation certificates, will then also need to carry one for the #COVID19 virus – but may yet be subjected to additional testing when they arrive in their chosen destinations.