Breakfast in Entebbe and Dinner in Mumbai: Uganda Airlines answers the call of the centuries

By Shakila Lamar Rahim
In his memoir, ‘The call of the Peacock,’ Dr. Mahendra N. Metha, the heir to Nanji Kalidas Metha, the founder of Lugazi Sugar Works, describes in some detail the perilous crossing early travellers between the Indian Sub-continent and the East African coast had to endure. With all the hazards the Arabian Sea could conjure up, Nanji’s crossing from Bombay (Mumbai) to Mombasa by dhow, took
26 days of stormy seas, and bouts of sea-sickness to complete.

The call of the Peacock, also captures the enduring appeal of Uganda to the people of India over the ages and their fascination with what the country has to offer in terms of opportunities for business. Although the advent of air travel and the modern cruise liner have since made it less of an arduous undertaking, the journey from India to Uganda is no less snaky today.

Where high winds and rough seas could blow a dhow off course, the absence of a direct air connection can still mean lengthy journey times. Even with an abundance of airline connections, journey times from Entebbe to Mumbai can take anywhere from 7 hours and 25 minutes at the shortest, to more than 30 hours in the extreme.

Shakila Lamar Rahim

Travellers have had to contend with unnecessary flying hours in the ‘wrong’ direction and lengthy layovers in transit hubs. Inevitably, this adds to the cost of travel beyond the price of the air ticket with passengers sometimes required to pay for transit visas.

Fortunately, salvation is just around the corner. Starting October 7, Uganda Airlines will operate direct flights between Entebbe International Airport and Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport. The service, which will be available three times a week, will have a duration of six and half hours of a gratuitous flying experience, peppered with Uganda’s traditional hospitality
and warmth.

Operating on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday using our state-of-the-art Airbus A330-800 aircraft, the service has been structured to cater for both the business and leisure traveller. We shall be adding 1,488 two-way seats a week into the market and 60 tons of cargo space in each direction.

That means there will be adequate capacity to meet both the passenger and cargo needs of the travelling public. Partnerships with other airlines mean that we shall also be able to provide onward lift beyond Mumbai to other points within India.

This is an exciting moment that comes at a time of heightened commercial, social and diplomatic engagement between India and Uganda. Contrary to popular myth, the two countries’ relations predate the Uganda Railway. There is, therefore, plenty of shared heritage, blended over more than a century, that awaits rediscovery and revival through improved connectivity.

India is a major source of foreign direct investment to Uganda and also a destination for medical referrals from Uganda. According to some estimates, more than 700 Ugandans seek advanced medical intervention in India every year.

The numbers game

More than 1,200 Ugandan students’ study in Indian institutions of higher learning, just as are 35,000 people of Indian descent now resident in Uganda.

For such demographics, shorter flying times are going to make a huge difference. The utility of Uganda Airlines’ direct flights to India can, therefore not be understated.

Unlike a century ago when movement between India and Africa was mostly unidirectional, it is more dispersed today. Air travel has opened up Africa, and huge numbers of Ugandans and Africans also travel to the land of the Peacock. India is going to be our 12 th destination. Combined with our expanding intra-African network, Uganda Airlines will facilitate this movement by providing
connections to east, west, southern and north Africa.

In tandem with Mumbai, we shall be announcing the launch of our services to Lagos, Nigeria, opening the route on 19 th October 2023. Combined with Mumbai, Uganda Airlines will provide the most efficient air bridge between West Africa and India.

Minus our service, it takes a minimum of 9 hours and 15 minutes to connect from Entebbe to Lagos. A journey between Mumbai and Lagos is even more onerous. Our service, lasting just 4 hours to Lagos and six and half hours to Mumbai, therefore, addresses an existing need and will be a catalyst to unlocking the immense potential for collaboration across the different spheres between India,
Uganda and Africa.

From fresh foods to emergency supplies, Uganda Airlines Entebbe-Mumbai services adds swift to the mix. With all these exciting prospects, we cannot wait to welcome our patrons aboard UR 430, the most convenient connection between India and Africa.
Shakila Rahim Lamar serves at Uganda Airlines

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