Uganda Airlines (UR, Entebbe/Kampala) is looking at routing via an intermediate airport for a summer 2023 launch of its long-delayed London Heathrow route, thereby bypassing regulatory compliance issues preventing it from flying directly from Entebbe/Kampala.

This was confirmed to ch-aviation by Chief Executive Officer Jenifer Bamuturaki. She was commenting on a report in The EastAfrican newspaper, in which she said the UK Civil Aviation Authority (UK CAA) had suggested Uganda Airlines operate through alternative gateways with UK security clearance following delays in a security audit of Entebbe International Airport.

"In principle, we have two options – to wait until Entebbe International Airport has gone through a security audit by the UK CAA so that we can fly direct from there, or go through a third country whose airport already has the necessary clearances," she told The EastAfrican. Airports in Algeria, Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Morocco, Tunisia and Turkey were suggested as alternatives.

According to Bamuturaki, Uganda Airlines may have to wait up to two years for the UK CAA to complete its security vetting of Entebbe International Airport.

At its last audit under the International Civil Aviation Organisation's (ICAO) Universal Security Audit Programme (USAP) in 2017, Entebbe scored 81.8%, considerably better than the global average of 72%. However, the airport was last audited under ICAO's Universal Safety Oversight Audit Programme (USOAP) in July 2014. A scheduled audit in 2020 was postponed due to Covid-19. Another ICAO audit is now scheduled for October 2023. The UK CAA apparently wanted this brought forward, but the Uganda CAA declined the request, reasoning that ICAO audit slots are pre-booked and would be challenging to shift.

Bamuturaki told The EastAfrican, "at the airline level, we are cleared". A year ago, she told ch-aviation the airline's plans for flights to London had also been hamstrung by regulatory delays with the issuance of a UK Third Country Operator (TCO) approval resulting from Brexit and the COVID-19 pandemic. She said the UK regulator had provided a checklist of requirements, 80% of which were not the airline's domain but that of the Uganda Civil Aviation Authority, the Minister of Works and Transport, and the Ministry of Justice.

Uganda Airlines' has wanted to launch flights to London since its inception, but its two A330-800N widebodies were only certified by the Uganda CAA in August 2021.

The UK Civil Aviation Authority subsequently told ch-aviation it had not been approached by the airline. "The UK Civil Aviation Authority does not conduct audits of airports – this is done by the individual government departments in charge of transport security," a spokesperson said.

Editorial Comment: Added UK CAA comment. - 09.01.2023 - 16:40 UTC