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May 21, 2024
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Entebbe International Airport appeared to be consolidating the gains registered during 2022, with passenger traffic during the first half of 2023, surpassing pre-pandemic levels for the first time in three years. Traffic through Uganda’s major international gateway, edged 0.71 percent past pre-pandemic 2019 during the first six months of 2023.

Numbers released by aviation sector regulator and airports manager, Uganda Civil Aviation Authority (UCAA), show that 842.429 two-way passengers passed through Entebbe International Airport between January and June 30. Elated officials say the trend is a good pointer, with the second half of the year expected to benefit further from a tailwind of a couple of international conferences.

The numbers, though just 5.957 passengers over the half-year peak for 2019, nevertheless mirror airlines’ steady recovery of lost ground. Year-on-year, growth was 19.1 percent over the 707.750 international passengers that used the airport during the first half of 2022. Transit traffic was, however,  still 30 percent below the 83.142 passengers registered during 2018 H1 but 31 percent higher than the footfalls seen during the first six months of 2022.

The gateway closed 2022 at 1.571.950 international passengers, representing a 67 percent improvement over 2021.   

Covid relaxations and demand

UCAA Director General Fred Bamwesigye says the major relaxation of Covid-19 travel mandates across the globe as well as Uganda’s own liberal air services regime which has attracted new operators, were some of the factors driving the recovery.

“The increase in traffic is partly attributed to the relaxation of Covid-19 travel restrictions across the globe, tourism promotion initiatives, coming on board of the national carrier and attraction of more operators to Uganda’s airspace through liberalization of air transport services, among others,” Bamwesigye said during a media briefing.

Flag carrier Uganda Airlines has during the summer recovered to its original schedule of sixteen flights a week, on the Entebbe-Nairobi route. The carrier also added a Friday service on the Entebbe-Johannesburg route, which operated using an Airbus A330-800. Brussels Airlines has also gone daily on the Entebbe- Brussels run with the extra service operated via Bujumbura.

Getting close to 2019 levels

Bamwesigye adds that if the trend holds, Entebbe might surpass 2019 by the close of the year. “ICAO and the IATA have projected Africa’s full recovery from Covid -19 disruptions for 2024 but going by the half-year performance, for Uganda, that milestone may come by the end of this year,” he told AirInsight.

Cargo was, however, trending 18 percent below the comparable period for 2019, with a reduction in both exports and imports.

The surging passenger numbers have added a sense of urgency to ongoing works to expand the passenger terminal from the present two million passengers a year to 3.5 million. Bamwesigye said ongoing expansion works that will add 20.000 square meters to the passenger processing area, are scheduled for completion next June.

author avatar
Richard Schuurman
Active as a journalist since 1987, with a background in newspapers, magazines, and a regional news station, Richard has been covering commercial aviation on a freelance basis since late 2016. Richard is contributing to AirInsight since December 2018. He also writes for Airliner World, Aviation News, Piloot & Vliegtuig, and Luchtvaartnieuws Magazine. Twitter: @rschuur_aero.

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