The Uganda Civil Aviation Authority (UCAA), responsible for managing the country's main airfield Entebbe International Airport, has requested funding from the central Ugandan Government amounting to UGX150 billion (approx. US$40.3 million).
A Uganda Airlines CRJ900. Image by Bombardier
The COVID-19 pandemic led to the partial closure of Entebbe International Airport in March 2020. Owing to this and the general interruption of revenue earned from other air services in the country, UCAA has recorded a drop in monthly revenue from an average of UGX20 billion to UGX1 billion in April 2020.
UCAA's financial position has further been weakened by the need to maintain certain operations in order to adhere to international safety regulations even in this period of relative inactivity. Entebbe now serves 7 to 14 cargo and emergency flights per day, compared to 90 to 120 passenger and cargo flights daily pre-COVID.
Even with the airport's reopening tentatively scheduled for June 26, the agency expects a negative financial situation for the financial year 2020/2021, hence the need for a significant cash injection to sustain operations over the next year (July 2020 to June 2021). This need has also been made especially urgent due to international recommendations on Port Health measures to be taken in order to meet social distancing and hygiene standards. For the agency, this would require significant modifications to be made at Entebbe International Airport and other airfields, such as additional terminal space and the acquisition of self-service kiosks for passenger check-in.
Entebbe International Airport is Uganda's main air transport gateway, has two terminals to handle domestic and international flights, and is currently undergoing a Chinese-funded upgrade worth US$200 million that includes a new cargo centre, expanded passenger terminal, and refurbishment of its two runways.
UCAA's management has however clarified by way of a press release that the UGX150 billion is not a precondition for the airport's reopening, but is only meant to "ensure smooth operations amidst the additional and urgent requirements occasioned by COVID-19."