April 3, 2007
Posted to the web April 3, 2007
By Barbara Among
Sudan's national carrier, Sudan Airways, has announced a resumption of services to Entebbe after a two-year absence.
Uganda Civil Aviation Authority officials say they were notified of its intention to return after the airline completed the acquisition of a new fleet.
The carrier, which was forced off the Entebbe route in May 1995 when relations between Kampala and Khartoum deteriorated, first reinstated services to Entebbe in May 2005 but withdrew the service after a few months, citing lack of capacity.
Suspension of the service, which operated via the Southern Sudan capital of Juba, left a void that has since been filled by two Ugandan operators - Royal Daisy Airlines and Eagle Air.
The airline recently announced the purchase of new aircraft - an A300, an A310 and an A320 airbus as well as a Boeing 737.
Civil Aviation Authority manager for regulation and air services Sam Muneza said the airline would resume regular operations with a tri-weekly service to Entebbe via Juba on April 1 this year.
"Sudan Airways has indicated that it will resume operations between Khartoum and Entebbe starting next month and we have already approved its flight schedules," Mr Muneza said.
The flight from Khartoum via Juba to Entebbe will be operated with a Boeing 737. There will also be a direct flight from Khartoum to Entebbe connecting to Nairobi.
Mr Muneza said the new operations will ease transport between Uganda and Sudan, especially for traders going to Juba.
The resumption of direct flights from Entebbe to Khartoum is expected to reduce the air fare, which currently comes to about $500 because of going via Nairobi. The new fare is estimated at $450 for a return ticket.
Already, Royal Daisy flies six times a week to Sudan, while Eagle has three weekly flights.
Sudan Airways resumed flights to Kenya last year after eight years in limbo. The US imposed sanctions on Sudan in 1997, which were only removed following a peace deal signed in January 2005 ending two decades of civil war in the south. The service to Nairobi is currently operated twice a week.
International airlines are trooping back to Entebbe and increasing frequencies. KLM returned in November 2005 with three direct flights a week to Amsterdam a week.
The airline offers flights to Entebbe via Amsterdam from 16 airports in the United Kingdom. The flights from Amsterdam's Schiphol airport connect nine US and international airlines flights from 22 gateways in the US and Canada to Amsterdam with onward connections to Entebbe.
British Airways flies three times a week direct to Entebbe from Heathrow. SN Brussels also offers direct flights to Entebbe from the Belgian capital. South African Airways is also increasing its frequency to four flights a week starting this week.
The increase in flights reflects growing confidence in Uganda as a destination. Entebbe International Airport recorded the highest number of international arrivals among all entry points in Uganda in 2005 and has continued this trend to date. The airport registered 264,000 out of the total arrivals of 662,000 in 2005, an increase of 25 per cent.
Arrivals are projected to further increase this year as figures from the Uganda Bureau of Statistics already indicate a total of 114,409 visitors in the first quarter of 2006. Most visitors to the country last year came from Africa, which accounted for 72 per cent followed by Europe with 13 per cent.
There was an increase in visitor arrivals from all regions except Africa, which recorded a decline of 17 per cent compared with the previous year.
The tourism sector has been growing at 20 per cent annually. Uganda is fast becoming a popular tourist destination for safari holidays. A large number of UK residents with Asian or African roots have friends and family there.
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