INTERNATIONAL FLIGHTS RESUME IN KENYA AND RWANDA WHILE UGANDA STAYS OUT IN THE AVIATION COLD
(Posted 01st August 2020)
As both Kenya and Rwanda resume international scheduled flights at the stroke of midnight tonight is it perhaps time to put things into perspective vis a vis Uganda, which remains under aviation lockdown.
Rwanda’s #COVID19 case numbers as of last evening stand at 1.994 and the country has suffered 5 casualties from the pandemic.
Kenya’s case numbers in comparison last evening stood at 20.636 with a total of 341 casualties.
Rwanda is tonight reopening for both domestic and international flights while Kenya had relaunched their domestic flights already on the 15th of July.
In this context is it also important to look at Ethiopia, which case numbers as of last night stood at 17.530 with 274 casualties suffered so far.
Ethiopia never halted their flight operations since the pandemic reached the country, operated even during the worst of global lockdown periods up to 40 weekly repatriation and cargo services and has weeks ago already started to relaunch flights to countries which have since the beginning of July opened up their airports again.
Notably has Ethiopian Airlines, which financial year ended on the 07th of July, declared a profit for 2019/2020, albeit smaller than a year ago and despite the loss of over a billion US Dollars in revenues as a result of the pandemic and widespread lockdowns of airports.
Tanzania – broadly seen as a COVID19 pariah country, which since the end of April defied the WHO and the global community and stopped reporting case numbers – also has resumed scheduled passenger flights to Dar es Salaam, Kilimanjaro and Zanzibar.
Air traffic to Juba / South Sudan, with currently 2.322 cases and 46 confirmed deaths, is also open to international passenger flights again.
Uganda however, with the least case numbers of all these countries, 1.154 as of last evening and only 3 casualties so far, remains cut off from the rest of the region and the world and, apart from outbound repatriation flights – all fully booked as expatriates seek to literally escape this inexplicable lockdown – and cargo services no passenger flights are permitted.
Uganda Airlines, a billion US Dollar investment at the expense of the taxpayer, has since the lockdown performed only a few repatriation flights, two to Southern Africa and one to West Africa, but otherwise has to stay grounded as the Ugandan government keeps the airport under lockdown, besides their night curfew being the most restrictive in the entire region. All pre-pandemic efforts to roll out a significant destination network across Eastern and Southern Africa, to build up traffic numbers ahead of the delivery of two wide body Airbus A330-800Neo over the coming months, have ground to a halt and will have to undergo a full relaunch once again, while Uganda Airlines’ main competitors appear to be laughing their way to the bank.
Among the tourism and aviation fraternity is disappointment growing and has reached an outright anger stage, as neighbouring countries have resumed tourism and air operations at the expense of Uganda in a highly competitive market.
The Rwanda Development Board, also overseeing tourism and wildlife management, has reopened their primate national parks – and at reduced rates which have taken away the competitive pricing advantage of Uganda – besides now absorbing the entire global demand, whereas the Uganda Wildlife Authority has only opened savannah national parks but not the two gorilla parks of Mgahinga and Bwindi nor allowed chimpanzee tracking at various locations of the country so far.
‘I know of several companies, tour and safari operators, car hire firms depending on tourists, travel agencies and even hotels, where the owners have halted business and are not likely to come back from this continued lockdown. They have exhausted their cash reserves, are not able to pay their staff, for rent and other expenses. Our neighbours however are opening up or have been open for some time already and we are losing our safari business to them. This is a very competitive market and regaining lost market share is very difficult. If we do not open up very very soon, the decision to keep tourists away will have devastating consequences for our industry‘ ranted one regular commentator while many other similar opinions were shared with ATCNews.
Pressure is growing on the Ugandan government to declare itself vis a vis the resumption of regional and international passenger flights as well as its stand concerning the tourism and hospitality industry, as the logic of a continued lockdown – given the examples cited above – tends to stand contested in the court of public opinion.