Travelling business class with UR320
BY SADAB KITATTA KAAYA
At 9:26am on Friday, flight UR320 took to the skies, marking Uganda Airlines’ maiden commercial flight to Tanzania’s commercial city of Dar-es-Salaam. In keeping with the airline’s promise of being punctual, the flight was 20 minutes early.
On board was Martha Mbena with her son, making history of being among the first paying passengers on the route. For the entire one hour and 50 minutes’ journey, she could not hide her excitement.
“The services are good!” she said as she munched on a chicken sandwich.
Mbena, who last month came to visit relatives in Kampala, was attracted by promotional fares the airline announced as it resumed operations after nearly two decades.
Other passengers, mostly journalists and communications officers of selected government entities, were buried in talk about the negative social media comments about the revived airline.
I had to retreat to my seat for a prayer after one government official voiced his worries about the flight. The worries were forgotten once the cabin crew – Daniel Mugabi, William Musoke and Roni Kasemire – started checking on the passengers, assuring them of a smooth and safe flight.
Capt Charles Karabarinde had told us of the cloudy weather on approach to Dar-es-Salaam that could give us “a bumpy ride here and there.”
Musoke and Kasemire served the snacks and drinks with Ugandan products such as Mukwano tea, Wavah water and Jesa yoghurt making the cut. Being in business class, we encountered the beloved rolex, while those in economy settled for sandwiches on the Bombardier CRJ 900 that carries 76 passengers.
“For now, warm food and rolex is served to those flying business class but it will be different for the Airbus,” Jennifer Bamuturaki, the airline’s commercial director, said.
The CRJ 900 has a capacity of 12 business class passengers and 64 seats in economy class. Like Karabarinde had earlier warned, the thick clouds above Dar forced many to hold their breath, silence reigning as the flight captain navigated through.
“I now understand why Golola puked on the inaugural flight to Nairobi,” joked one passenger, sending the rest of us into laughter.
The flight was now stable and readying for a safe landing at Julius Nyerere International Airport, where Richard Kabonero, Uganda’s high commissioner to Tanzania, waited with a few Ugandans to receive the maiden flight.
I got the best economy seat
BY FRANK KISAKYE
Like with most aircraft, the exit seats on Uganda Airline’s Bombardier CRJ 900 are the most spacious with legroom even bigger than that in business class.
Legroom in this Bombardier’s economy class aircraft is a luxury, but with the exit seats, I could even walk past the aisle seat without unseating my neighbour.
Landing at the new state-of-the-art Julius Nyerere International Airport (JNIA) in Dar es Salaam was bumpy and rough. I even experienced the dreaded airplane ear despite my futile gum-chewing attempts, losing my hearing for nearly an hour.
The flying ‘experts’ on board explained that it was because of the big clouds over Dar. From Entebbe, there was even that rollercoaster tummy-drop feeling after takeoff, and for the first time in my flight history, I feared for the worst.
Ahead of the flight, Uganda Communications Commission’s Pamela Ankunda had, after all, made public her premonitions.
“I have a bad feeling about this flight,” she had said.
While the ‘tummy-drop’ effect is a pretty normal flight experience and even happens in elevators as the body reacts to change of acceleration, Ankunda’s fears were still ringing in my ears when the effect happened.
We are going to make history as the first crash passengers of the revived Uganda Airlines, I thought to myself. I looked at the passengers in front of me and they were dearly clinging onto their seats. The landing at JNIA wasn’t smooth either.
My passport, which I had placed on the neighbouring seat, flew from my A12 seat and cruised underneath the seats all the way to the front rows. It was picked up by UNRA’s Allan Kyobe Ssempebwa.
However, the return journey from DAR to EBB was the smoothest ever for nearly everyone. We hardly noticed the takeoff or landing. Even when we were warned of turbulence ahead, we waited and waited, but it never came.
We arrived at Entebbe nearly 10 minutes ahead of schedule and were treated to an aerial view of Wakiso and Kampala. From the skies, I could see Namboole stadium, Makerere University Business School campus, and Namirembe cathedral, among others.
Every passenger was interested in knowing who the smooth operator was. It was none other than Captain Charles Karabarinde, a former pilot with the first Uganda Airlines. Before it folded 20 years ago, Uganda Airlines reputably had some of the best pilots in the world.
Karabarinde has more than 40 years piloting experience and he had given us the extremes of a bumpy and smooth flight with the same aircraft on different routes.
Some Ugandans had pleaded for the signature rolex (rolled chapatti with fried eggs) to be a mainstay item on the airline menu.
However, airline staff said the smaller cabin of the Bombardier sadly can’t allow for storage space for 76 rolexes. This will only be possible when the bigger Airbuses arrive later this year. What is served aplenty on Uganda Airlines flights is beer and soda. The beer comes in 500ml cans and the sodas in 330ml cans.
We land in Juba
BY NICHOLAS BAMULANZEKI
The euphoria surrounding the return of Uganda Airlines to the skies did not spare me, joining the team on flight UR202 on a maiden flight to Juba last week.
The flight was scheduled for 10 am but by 7:30 am, I was already at the airport. Together with my media colleagues, we were welcomed by a jolly Rosemary Mutazindwa, who helped take us through the itinerary.
Once on board, we were taken through the routine safety and emergency instructions, but I did not really pay attention because I don’t believe in disasters.
At exactly 10:15 am, the plane started to take off and much as I am well-travelled, I got a bit anxious when I saw nervous people on board, many of whom probably on their first-ever flight. However, all nerves were settled once the captain, Charles Karabarinde, navigated well through the thick clouds.
We were served breakfast of tea, coffee, juice and bread. One of the passengers, Ismail Deng, could not hide his excitement.
“We now can enjoy direct flights from Juba to Entebbe again,” he said.
At 11:20 am, we smoothly touched down at Juba International Airport and were welcomed by a water canon salute. After the festivities and formalities in the VIP wing, at 2 pm, we took to the skies again to return home with our Bombardier.
There was a bit of turbulence 20 minutes to Entebbe; clouds had formed and it was raining in some parts but we touched down smoothly on the wet Entebbe runway.