The inaugural flight of Saudi Arabian carrier, Saudi Airlines arrived Uganda’s Entebbe International Airport at 7 am on Wednesday, marking the launch of direct flights from Riyadh to Uganda’s capital.
Saudi Airlines landed with about 300 passengers aboard an Airbus 330-300, according to the airline, and was welcomed with a traditional gun salute.
Tour operators and employee recruiters have welcomed the development given that they now have a direct flight to Riyadh. The airline is the first to make direct flights between the two destinations.
Most journeyers between the two countries are tourists, business people, and Ugandans seeking employment in Saudi Arabia.
According to Vianney Luggya, the spokesperson of the Uganda Civil Aviation Authority, Saudi Airlines becomes one of the 17 international airlines to operate in Entebbe.
“Whenever a new operator comes, it is a vote of confidence in the country’s aviation systems. We expect that their coming on board will help us increase the passenger traffic that has been steadily grown through the years,” Luggya told reporters.
About 21 percent of the passenger traffic at Entebbe Airport comes from the Middle East.
The Covid-19 pandemic and related travel restrictions reduced passenger numbers at Entebbe to less than half.
In 2019, traffic stood at 1.98 million passengers but with the advent of the pandemic, it fell to 600,000 passengers in 2020. In 2021, the numbers increased to 940,000.
Uganda’s imports from Saudi Arabia in 2020 stood at $274.5 million, while the gulf state imported goods worth $5.2million from the East African country.