The Uganda Civil Aviation Authority is still awaiting directives from the government on when commercial flights should resume, as infrastructure upgrade continues at Entebbe International Airport, amidst measures to control the spread of coronavirus Disease.
Last week social media and a section of mainstream media were awash with information that flights would resume on October 1, 2020, six months since the airport was closed. From the time, more than 4,000 people have tested positive for the virus in Uganda, with 48 deaths.
The reports were based on a letter dated September 8, written by the Uganda Civil Aviation Authority (UCAA) to airlines’ executives. The letter signed by Ayub Sooma, the UCAA director for Airports and Aviation security indicated that 13 flights, to and from the airport have been cleared for the first day, while 10 flights are confirmed for the second day.
UCAA also gave details of a revised weekly flight schedule for the first phase of the reopening which runs for three months. This draft plan with a tentative flight schedule was shared with executives of Uganda Airlines, KLM, Turkish Airlines, Emirates, Brussels Airlines, Qatar Airways, Kenya Airways, Air Tanzania, Ethiopian Airlines, FlyDubai, RwandAir, and Tarco Aviation.
However, the UCAA Manager of Public Affairs, Vianney Luggya told URN that this was not a final schedule, but a draft sent to the operators, who were asked to give their input for a final plan, as the industry awaits communication from the government on when to re-open.
Luggya says that currently, apart from continuing with the expansion and upgrade of the airport facilities, they have been putting in place measures that are aimed at preventing infections at the airport. These measures are expected to require an intending traveller to be at the airport at least four hours before their flight.
The measures include installing automated sanitizer points, removing partitions in waiting areas and protective measures at counters to separate officials and passengers at the airport.
UCAA is also drawing up possible plans on how it would be like if commercial flights were given a go-ahead to commence. Luggya says that even on resumption, not all the airlines that operate at or through Entebbe will be allowed immediately, as the authority will have to gauge the environment before allowing in more numbers.
Before the lockdown, UCAA was recording revenues worth 20 billion shillings a month, but this has since dropped to 1 billion Shillings. However, the country is losing more through a crippled tourism sector, that largely relies on commercial flights bringing in foreign tourists.
In the interim, the airport is handling cargo flights, emergency service flights for organisations like World Food Program-WFP, as well as repatriation flights for foreigners wishing to go back to their countries, and Ugandan’s returning to their country.