Uganda Airlines set out to conquer the world when it made its maiden trip to Dubai with at least 81 passengers on board .The 259-capacity Airbus A330-800 Neo aircraft left Entebbe international airport with 76 passengers in economy and five others flying business class.
The flight was flagged off by the State Minister for Transport, Fred Byamukama, making it the first commercial flight to the middle east since the revival of the national carrier . Uganda airlines is already flying the Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Somalia, South Africa, South Sudan, and Tanzania routes since 2019.
Captain Steven Wegoye, the interim director of safety at Uganda Airlines said the new Dubai route was a major milestone because it is the first international route the airline will operate out of Africa. Uganda airline is expected to commence flights to London next month, Guangzhou and Mumbai next year.
“So we will fly twice a week to Dubai until the route picks up, where 50 per cent of the total seats are booked,” Wegoye said, “But we expect to fly three times a week.”
Byamukama urged Ugandans to use the airline because it is operating direct flights to Dubai at an affordable price. The airline charged $419 (Shs 1.5 million) for the maiden flight – below the $500 (Shs 1.8 million) charged by Emirates and Flydubai for the same route.
The Dubai route is expected to boost tourism numbers and cargo exports for flowers, tea, cocoa, minerals, and other items to the Middle East and the Gulf region. Patrick Ocailap, the deputy permanent secretary of ministry of Finance says the direct flights to Dubai, about five and half hours, are a great deal for business people, tourists and migrant workers because they will not have stopovers say in Addis Abba enroute to Dubai.
According to the ministry of Foreign Affairs, trade between Uganda and the United Arab Emirates has grown significantly since 2009 when the two countries established diplomatic relations. For instance, exports from Uganda to the UAE increased from $300 million in 2009 to $1.9 billion in 2020.
During the same period, investment figures rose from $150 million to over $800 million while remittances from the UAE currently stand at $200 million.
However , some disappointed Ugandans took to the social media to criticize government officials who were seen flying Emirates to attend the ongoing Dubai Trade Expo in the UAE which will run for six months ending March 2022 and Uganda is marketing itself as a tourist and investment destination.