NO HOOPS TO JUMP THROUGH AS AIRBUS PREPARED FOR A SUPERB DELIVERY FLIGHT TO UGANDA
(Posted 06th January 2021)
Following the rather nondescript flights with KLM from Entebbe to Amsterdam and then on to Toulouse was I truly looking forward to the experience of the delivery flight on the new Uganda Airlines Airbus A330-800Neo.
I was also looking forward to a much friendlier health, security and immigration check when leaving Toulouse, given the more recent experience in Entebbe and Amsterdam, both of which have failed to live up to my expectations – with Entebbe back to the bad old ways, having forgotten their initial enthusiasm and friendly disposition when air traffic restarted in October and that it is the passengers who pay for their salaries and keep them employed.
Toulouse did not disappoint on departure even though the security checks were thorough as was immigration, BUT, all done with smiles and friendly words in stark contrast to what our fellows do in Entebbe, where dour faces are both the old and new normal again.
Uganda Airlines’ new Airbus A330-800Neo, the first delivered to an African airline, is one of a kind – soon to be two in fact when the sistership is delivered later this month.
The front cabin is definitely the best on the market – only Air Senegal has a similar seat product on their A330-900Neo – and as far as Uganda is concerned only matched by 5 star airline Qatar Airways, which also offers a 1 x 2 x 1 seat configuration in business class. With just 20 seats will traveling in this kind of space environment remind many of flying first class in the old days of Uganda Airlines, when the venerable Boeing B707 had the classic 2 x 2 layout in First.
Premium Economy too offers spacious seating in a 2 x 3 x 2 configuration, wider seats, greater recline and just 28 seats in a cabin enclosed by proper walls.
The only other airline presently offering a comparable service into and out of Entebbe is Brussels Airlines which offers 21 seats in a 2 x 3 x 2 layout in a separate cabin.
KLM, which coyly calls their premium economy class ‘Economy Komfort’ is a complete letdown in comparison, going with the ancient 2 x 4 x 2 layout which only offers a greater seat recline and more legroom but otherwise are just economy seats, plain and simple.
No other airlines flying into and out of Entebbe presently offer a Premium Economy option.
Catering on the delivery flight was uniform for all passengers, regardless where they were seated – as is often the case with such flights – and if anything to go by will the food and service on board, when the A338Neo starts commercial flights, also hold its own in comparison with the competition on the routes to Dubai, Mumbai Guangzhou and London.
We had one Ugandan flight attendant on board of the delivery flight, who is already type rated on this aircraft, and a delivery cabin crew assembled by Airbus. The plane was piloted home by Capt. Etiang, Uganda Airlines’ Chief Pilot who was assisted in the cockpit by an Airbus test captain and a Ugandan First Officer as an observer.
The arrival experience in Entebbe was one of a kind, with passengers whisked through the mandatory health inspection of everyone’s PCR negative certificates before being equally swiftly processed by immigration.
What followed then was already described in a separate article, the official welcome home of the new wide body aircraft, which concluded the journey to and from Toulouse.
My thanks go to Heidi Carpenter and Laura Nguyen Duc, both of whom pulled out all the stops for the Ugandan media delegation and who faced and answered every one of the thousand questions we had with smiles, charm and competence.
Webare Nyo also to Uganda Airlines – and I am looking forward to flying on this bird again in the not too distant future.