Uganda Airlines will no longer need government financial support from 2027 onwards after breaking even, Jenifer Bamuturaki the chief executive officer of the Uganda National Airlines Company has said.
According to reports by the Auditor General, for the last three consecutive financial years, Uganda Airlines drew a lot of negative media publicity and posted huge losses; Shs 104 billion in FY 2020/21, Shs 164 billion in FY 2021/22, and Shs 234 billion 2022//23 – all totaling Shs 502 billion.
The reports that were submitted to parliament prompted further scrutiny of the operations of the airlines by the public accounts committee on commissions, statutory authorities, and state enterprises (Cosase) to help shape the entity’s strategic plan.
Now, Bamuturaki explains that while the audit reports portrayed the airline negatively, the losses the entity recorded during the period under review were justifiable - citing inevitable variable and administrative costs. To curb losses, Bamuturaki says the company has invested in managing the cost of fuel and oil, maintenance, rentals, and crew through personnel training, process automation, airplane seat configuration, and extension of routes among others, to enable the entity to move towards break-even.
"For us to be able to manage our losses, we must manage our operations and run an efficient operation. So when we come to fuel, we have very high fuel costs because the cost of fuel in this part of the world is very expensive. So it takes a lot of training even with our pilots - how they take off, how they land, at what point do they start to engage to land? So all those things come down to reducing our costs of fuel and then it will eventually speak into our losses," said Bamuturaki.
Bamuturaki revealed that her administration internally has set a timeline of at least three years from now to be able to break even as the airline currently generates enough revenues to meet its direct operation expenses such as maintenance costs, crew costs, landing fees, and navigation charges among others.
"Internally, we're looking at at least 3 years' time. We should be walking towards breaking even. Another interesting thing is our revenues internally meet 85 per cent of our costs without government support. The revenues we make are 3 times more than what we get from government. That is the other side of the story that you never know. So what our plan is and what we're working towards internally is to stop coming to government and be able to meet our own expenses," she added.
Asked about his expert opinion on the performance of current performance of Uganda Airlines, Abderahmane Berthé, general secretary of the African Airlines Association (AFRAA), to which Uganda is a member, observed that since its revival in 2019 after 18 years of absence, the future of Uganda Airlines is commendable especially as it acquires new flight routes to expand the network.
Since 2019, with six aircraft, Uganda Airlines flies to about 12 destinations as of 2023 including Nairobi, Dar-es-Salaam, Bujumbura, Mogadishu, Zanzibar, Mombasa, Kinsasha, Juba, Lagos, and South Africa among others. It also operates intercontinental flights to Dubai, Mumbai, London, and Guangzhou.
At its infant state of revival, Uganda Airlines notably suffered global shocks inflicted by COVID-19 global travel restrictions as nations attempted to mitigate the spread of the killer virus.