Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Interview: Cornwell Muleya, Air Uganda CEO

Air Uganda network expansion to focus on DRC

Air Uganda is targeting the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) for a new wave of expansion over the coming five years, says chief executive Cornwell Muleya.

The airline currently deploys a fleet of three Bombardier CRJ900s to five East African countries: Burundi, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan and Tanzania.

Expansion into central and southern Africa will come alongside a planned order for “one or two” 50-90-seater regional jets, with frequencies on all existing routes also gradually rising to twice daily.

“We are looking at three points in DRC: Kinshasa, Lubumbashi and Goma when the airport runway is completed,” Muleya tells Flightglobal.

“We believe in future we can also connect with southern African countries, not only South Africa, but Zambia, Zimbabwe ... Essentially all this we want to achieve in the next three to five years. The idea is to provide more connections out of Uganda to all these points, and create a system that can hub through Entebbe.”

Further down the road, the Sudanese capital Khartoum and Eritrea will also be evaluated.

Air Uganda’s parent, the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development, separately holds stakes in Air Burkina, Air Mali and Italy’s Meridiana. Fleet orders are placed “at a group level”, Muleya says, and all regional jet manufacturers are currently being considered.

Asked about talks with Uganda’s government over a possible equity acquisition, he says that Entebbe has expressed “willingness” to develop some form of “co-operation arrangement” with the airline.

Affiliates Air Mali and Air Burkina are both partly owned by their respective governments.