Entebbe in race against time as passenger traffic overruns capacity

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The news is both good and bad. International air passenger traffic through Entebbe is surging like […]

The news is both good and bad. International air passenger traffic through Entebbe is surging like never before. The downside is that this is likely to lead to congestion in the passenger terminal during peak time.

Although currently undergoing expansion, Entebbe is in a race against time. According to Uganda Civil Aviation Director General Fred Bamwesigye passenger traffic reached 171,990 during March, with a split of 80,719 inbound and 91,271outbound. That translated into 545,556 two-way passengers during the first quarter of 2024, or 35.5pc growth over the 402,374 that passed through during Q1, 2023. If the trend holds, the passenger terminal with a design capacity of 2 million passenger per year, will be out of headroom before the end of 2024.

That will demand exceptional levels of efficiency across the entire stakeholder spectrum to minimise the likelihood of an unpleasant passenger experience.

Built during the early 1970’s, Entebbe International Airport has undergone several upgrades to cope with growing passenger numbers. Initially designed for 1 million passengers a year and a 3655 metre-long runway capable of 160,000 aircraft movements a year or 438 flights daily; Entebbe’s growth trajectory was interrupted by decades of political and economic instability that almost wiped-out Uganda’s tourism sector.

Buit the country has seen a major rebound over the past three decades, with tourism looking up while foreign and domestic investment have shored up the economy. The confirmation of significant deposits of hydrocarbons in 2006, also increased foreign interest in the country. First oil is expected in 2025 and as second airport has been built in Hoima, 200 kilometres west of the capital Kampala.

Major expansion works ahead of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in 2007, doubled Entebbe’s capacity to 2 million passengers, while an ongoing expansion project that also saw the construction of 100,000-ton cargo centre and a 20,000 square metre extension to the passenger terminal will take capacity to 3.5 million passengers a year.

Addressing the media this week, Bamwesigye revealed that civil works on the new terminal building were at 90 percent completion. The building is supposed to enter service in early 2025.

According to Bamwesigye, daily traffic has averaged 6,000 passengers since December 2023.

“Specifically, 6,418 passengers per day were handled during December 2023, 6,329 per day in January 2024 and 6,116 passengers per day in February 2024,” he said.

Consolidated traffic figures show that 1.93 million passengers passed through the airport last year, a 7.2pc increase over pre-pandemic 2019.

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