Uganda Airlines cuts flight time to Burundi by seven hours
At 4:30pm, amid cheers, an epic Kirundi dance and a water salute, Uganda Airlines Bombardier CRJ 900 aircraft touched down at Melchior Ndadaye International Airport in Burundi, on Monday.
The 40-Minute direct flight from Uganda to Burundi was the first of its kind, bringing to an end, years of 8 hour-long flights to Uganda through other countries.
“I was here a few weeks ago and getting here was not that easy, because there was no direct connection from Entebbe to Bujumbura. My journey then took almost 8 hours, but that is now history,” Uganda Airlines board Chairperson, Conwell Muleya, said at the launch of the aircraft in Burundi.
Bujumbura becomes Uganda Airlines fifth destination after Nairobi, Juba, Mogadishu and Dar-es Salaam, which commenced a month ago.
Works and Transport State Minister, Gen Katumba Wamala, who led the delegation to Bujumbura said the new route would increase Uganda’s footprint in Africa.
“We are proud and excited to add Bujumbura to our network and to offer both passenger and cargo services. This new route will play a vital role in the expansion of trade, tourism and investment between Uganda and Burundi,” he said upon arrival in Bujumbura.
Gen Wamala noted that the relationship between Uganda and Burundi goes a long away. “The two countries were the first two nations to contribute troupes to Somalia at a time when everyone had given up. Therefore this mission is easier than the one we witnessed in Somalia.”
According to Pacifique Musongera, the Acting Director General, Burundi Civil Aviation Authority, Melchior Ndadaye, the only international Airport of Burundi, handles only 270,000 passengers per year.
Out of a population of 11 million people, this number shows that only a small portion of the Burundian community have access to air transport services.
“We expect Uganda Airlines’ management to be more competitive for the Burundian market, especially on the ticket fares and other flight services in order to attract Burundian citizens and businesses, taking into account their standard of living,” Musongera said.
The airline’s commercial director Jennifer Bamuturaki said the aircraft will fly to Bujumbura three times a week, on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
“To see that everyone gets a chance to fly with the Uganda Airlines, we shall be running a 2-month-long promotional campaign with subsidized fares,” she said. A flight from Uganda to Bujumbura will cost only $295 (Shs1million) and only $247 (Shs910,000) from Bujumbura to Uganda.
The airline currently flies only two Bombardier CRJ 900 aircraft with a capacity of 76 passengers and is expecting to receive two more next week.
With the new aircraft, the airline will expand its route network to cover more destinations in Southern and Central Africa such as the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Zanzibar, Asmara, Hargeisa, Lusaka, Harare, Johanesburg, Djibout and Addis Ababa.
According to Bamuturaki, two more aircraft from the French manufacturer Airbus are expected late next year and will be used for long haul flights.