The battle for the skies is shaping up in the East African region as airlines upgrade their fleet and expand destinations, setting the stage for heightened competition with established carriers such as Kenya Airways (KQ).
The regional airlines are also expanding their interline agreement with foreign carriers as they seek to increase their reach through codeshare.
The interline agreements and expansion of routes, mean that travellers from countries such as Uganda and Tanzania, no longer have to transit via Jomo Kenyatta International Airport to destinations where their local carriers do not fly.
Uganda Airlines, which resumed operations less than two years ago has for the first time started flights to South Africa and Dubai routes after plying within the region since its inauguration.
The Entebbe-based carrier begun the Dubai route a fortnight ago with three flights, and now wants to increase the frequencies from the current three weekly to four or five as the demand on the route grows.
“We are flying a 285-seater craft and on the first day, we flew just 80 people. On the second day, we flew 220 passengers. You can only grow a route depending on the frequency you fly and the market reaction. We will stimulate the route to about four or five times a week,” the airline’s acting chief executive Jennifer Bamuturaki said in an interview with the East African.
Emirates codeshare pact
Dubai is the carrier’s first long-haul intercontinental route, and it’s banking on high number of passengers and frequencies to maintain that destination.
The Ugandan carrier recently entered into a codeshare agreement with Emirates, allowing passengers to fly either carrier on the Entebbe-Dubai route and fly and connect with Uganda Airlines to East Africa.
Also, early this month, Air Tanzania received a delivery of two Airbus A220-300 aircraft lifting the number of this model of airbus in its fleet to four. Air Tanzania first took delivery of the A220 in December 2018, becoming the first African operator to have this type in their fleet.
The Tanzanian carrier is now ready to expand its international reach with additional aircraft that now raises its fleet to slightly over 10.
“With the addition of the A220 in our fleet, we are confident that we will expand our footprint in the growing African markets and beyond, as we unlock additional routes and regain our position as a key player in the African air transport market,” said Ladislaus Matindi, Air Tanzania managing director in a statement.
KQ-South African Airways pact
Air Tanzania and Air India early this year announced an interline agreement between the two carriers aimed at increasing connectivity for customers of both airlines.
Kenya Airways last month signed a memorandum of cooperation with South African Airways with the view to forming a pan-African Airline in future.
The cooperation will see the two carriers look at possible ways of aligning their cargo, passenger and other commercial services in order to form a single entity that will benefit from the huge market where the two airlines operate.
The carriers say the partnership will see an increase in passenger traffic, cargo opportunities, and general trade by taking advantage of strengths in South Africa, Kenya, and Africa.
Last year, Kenya Airways received permission to operate direct cargo flights between Johannesburg and other Southern Africa capitals, capitalising on the absence of South African Airways to serve that market.