Air Uganda expects new CEO to take charge after 6 month vacuum at the top


Usually well informed sources have indicated that after a 6 months gap at the top – the last CEO, one Kayle Haywood in early October 2012 prematurely walked out on his contract with the airline to take up a better paying position with FastJet in Tanzania – will on April 01st 2013 a new CEO finally take up the vacant position.

Known already to this correspondent, but surprisingly still not known to the staff at Air Uganda’s head office in Kampala, the matter clearly is treated like a state secret by the chairman of the board. One regular aviation source, not working for Air Uganda I hasten to add, attributes this style to past experiences with CEO’s who apart from Hugh Frazer did not last overly long nor had great fortunes in their brief periods at the helm, a trend started with a team of hapless Italians, brought in from sister airline Meridiana at the time, which now finds itself in financially challenging times. MeridianaFly is operating with a fleet of MD aircraft which are aged and guzzling fuel, impacting hugely on the bottom lines, leaving the owners with unenviable choices to make after missing the proverbial bus to commit for a full fleet renewal several years ago.

Those Italians set a trend of bull in China shop behaviour, which took subsequent job holders overtime to repair industry relations but also left them clearly exasperated with the challenges they were faced with, in the market as well as vis a vis being able to take fast decisions and be granted sufficient funds for investments by the owners, in new routes and new aircraft. Understandably were the start up losses, for which the Italian managers are generally held responsible, making a huge dent into the available funds and economically hard times did not help to see this change.

However, that said, U7’s main competitors in the region, Kenya Airways, Precision Air and RwandAir, are all cooperating to various degrees and a standalone Air Uganda is hard pressed to rival them, leave alone copy their commitments to buy new aircraft and aggressively expand their route network, which in particular with RwandAir is key to their success in penetrating the market. When Air Uganda was formed in 2007, RwandAir had fewer aircraft but has since moved to 4 brand new acquisitions in the space of just `15 months, i.e. 2 B737-800NG and 2 CRJ900NextGen. They are also in the final phase to exchange two leased B737-500 into more modern B737-700 longer range aircraft, while for the domestic and near regional routes they operate a Bombardier Dash 8-100. It is here that Air Uganda’s new incoming CEO is challenged to smartly position U7, get his board to agree on funding for new aircraft and to open up new routes, or else leave the airline where it is at present, with narrowing spaces in the skies over East Africa.

Watch this space for when the news are broken, right here as oftentimes.

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