Shs 150 billion to finance operational costs at Airport says UCAA

The Uganda Civil Aviation Authority (UCAA) has said it’s recent request to government for a subsidy Shs 150 billion is aimed at helping the body sustainably finance operational costs at the airport for the next financial year following the suspension of passenger activities due to the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak which reduced it’s financial muscle since it derives most of its revenue from running of activities, including infrastructure upgrade from air traffic in and out of the country.

In a statement released on Thursday following widespread debate on it’s request for support, the aviation body that is mandated which is mandated to regulate air transport in Uganda, manage and operate Entebbe International Airport and other aerodromes clarified that suspension of passenger operations in March 2020 negatively impacted on it’s revenue which is used to sustain operations at Entebbe International Airport.

“Airport operational costs are high even during the current period where there are limited nights (cargo and emergency) since international safety regulations require certain protocols in place whether the airport is handling the 90-120 flights per day that Entebbe used to handle before COVID 19 or the current 7-14, The I5O billion Shillings bail-out that the Authority requested for is meant to meet maintenance, operational and other associated costs for a whole from July2020 to June 2021. It is not a precondition for reopening of the airport like is the impression that mav have earlier been created. It is to ensure smooth operations amidst the additional and urgent requirements occasioned by COVID-19” part of the statement reads.

The statement further reads, “While the Authority previously collected an average of 20 billion shillings per month, in April 2020, only about 1 billion shillings was earned, the situation is worse at the moment and is not likely to improve in the next few months. The aviation industry will not immediately pick up in terms of passenger traffic even when passenger operations resume. This implies that the current financial shortfalls may prevail for the entire financial year (2020/2021) yet the Airport will be expected to render the same level of service amidst higher international expectations in a bid to restore confidence on measures in place to combat the spread of COVVD-19 through air”

UCAA said in light of from international bodies, Port health requirements such as social distancing, screening. Disinfection of baggage and facilities, rapid testing to check-in and disembarkation are becoming recommended practices and standards in the aviation industry across the globe.

“Adhering to social distancing at airports require a lot of interventions, including space, expediting the on-going terminal expansion and acquisition of self-service kiosks for check-in to reduce human the passenger facilitation chain. Some of the above, which were planned for the medium term, now require short term implementation in order to achieve the desired sitting that ensures that social distancing Standards are adhered to among others” the statement reads.

UCAA said the airport currently experiences space constraints leading to congestion especially at peak hours, which calls for more space to avoid long queues.

“More advanced equipment for the Search Park. New Cargo Centre and existing terminal will also be required. All these (a number of which had been budgeted in anticipation of steady income) require massive financing yet the revenues have dwindled. UCAA substantially finances recurrent and development expenditure using internally generated revenue, which (as indicated) is not available at the moment” the statement reads.

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