Uganda Airlines cancels all flights as government halts air travel

The airline is the latest East African carrier to suspend international operations in response to coronavirus containment measures

A passenger airplane packed at an airport
A Uganda Airlines plane. Photo: Uganda Airlines (Facebook)

National carrier Uganda Airlines is suspending all passenger flights from 23 March “until further notice” as the government shuts down borders and stops all inbound and outbound flights in efforts to limit the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus.

“This is in the interest of ensuring the safety of our customers, staff, and the public, compliance with the rapidly evolving travel restrictions, and the various national and international obligations in the global fight against the Covid-19 pandemic,” Uganda Airlines said in a statement on Sunday evening.

“Clients holding tickets for travel during this period have the option to rebook and fly at a future date or to request for a refund. Ticket changes are free of charge as we are offering a waiver for change fees on all flights across our network.”

The move comes just four days after the company announced that it is temporarily cancelling flights to Mogadishu, Mombasa, Kilimanjaro, and Zanzibar over the coronavirus pandemic, and reducing the number of flights to Nairobi and Bujumbura.

The decision followed the confirmation of Covid-19 coronavirus infections in Kenya, Tanzania, and Somalia, travel restrictions issued by regional governments, and a decline in demand.

But after Uganda registered its first positive case of the novel coronavirus on Saturday, prompting the government to close air borders and ban all international passenger flights for four weeks, Uganda Airlines is now completely suspending all international passenger flights.

Only cargo and emergency flights will be exempt from the ban, said President Museveni, who announced it as part of measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

In neighbouring Rwanda, where confirmed coronavirus cases are higher at 19, flag carrier RwandAir suspended all commercial flights for 30 days starting 20 March. Jambojet, the Kenyan budget airline, suspended flights to Entebbe and Kigali last Monday due to a decrease in demand, and later, on Friday, reduced the frequency of local flights for the same reason.

Kenya Airways also announced yesterday that it is suspending all international passenger flights from 25 March until further notice. This was in line with a directive issued by the Kenya government on Sunday halting inbound and outbound passenger flights from 25 March.

Revived last year by the government, Uganda Airlines operates daily flights to Nairobi, Dar es Salaam, and Juba. It also flies every other day to Mombasa, Kilimanjaro, Zanzibar, Mogadishu, and Bujumbura.