Entebbe soars past Covid-19 blues as passengers hit 1.9million mark

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Michael Wakabi Uganda’s major international gateway, Entebbe, registered 1,932,000 international passengers during 2023, marking the full […]

Michael Wakabi

Uganda’s major international gateway, Entebbe, registered 1,932,000 international passengers during 2023, marking the full recovery from the disruptions caused by Covid-19 shut downs and travel mandates over the preceding three years. Year on year, traffic was 23pc above 2022 and 7pc ahead of 2019, the base year against which recovery of global air travel is being tracked.

Speaking to 256BN, Vianney Luggya Mpungu, the manager for public affairs at the Uganda Civil Aviation Authority UCAA, said Entebbe’s performance reflected the overall recovery of travel that started after governments across the world, relaxed or removed Covid-19 mandates starting 2022.

In its traffic report for November 2023, the International Air Transport Association IATA, said global traffic was trending at 99pc of 2019, although some markets had fully recovered.

Most operators to Entebbe have reverted to their pre-pandemic schedules, while in some cases, there have been new markets entrants and routes. Uganda also hosted a number of international conferences, adding lift to the numbers.

For instance, flag carrier Uganda Airlines launched new services to Mumbai and Lagos last October, and went daily on the Johannesburg route the same month. According to industry sources, the two routes rapidly gained traction and the cabin factor was trending at 65pc on Lagos and 60pc on Mumbai at the end of December. Belgian carrier Brussels Airlines also went daily on the Entebbe-Brussels route during the year. There’s also an upswing in regional group travel, being promoted by  travel firms such as Breathtaking Uganda.

Luggya further said that at 198,981 passengers – an average of 6,418 daily- December 2023 registered the highest number of passengers in a single month, since the UCAA started recording traffic data in 1991. Of these, 104,160 were inbound while 94,800 departed, a typical pattern for the month that sees, many Ugandans’ resident abroad, return for extended stays over the festive season. A pick-up in activity in the oil and gas sector also added lift to the numbers.

“This is the highest number of passengers ever to be recorded in a single month. With the high number of visiting Non-aligned Movement NAM and G77+China summit delegates arriving, January 2024 is expected to record similarly high numbers,” Luggya said.

Cargo however saw a slight dip, falling to 59,000 tons in 2023 compared to 60,866 tons for the preceding year.

In other news, during December, Uganda entered new Bilateral Air Service Agreements BASAs, with Algeria, Benin, Brazil and Iceland, expanding opportunities for new routes.

Entebbe is currently connected to 32 airports in 19 countries. As of this week, 305 departures are scheduled with Entebbe-Nairobi as the busiest route at 61 flights or 20pc of all departures over the next seven days.

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