The national carrier of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia made its inaugural direct flight to Entebbe International Airport from King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh.
Saudia, the Saudi Arabia National Carrier with over 250 passengers on board touched down at Entebbe International Airport at 7 am yesterday.
The aircraft was greeted with the water cannon salute and cutting of the cake to mark her at Entebbe Airport.
It left with 300 passengers mainly migrant workers, residents and Saudi nationals. Saudia had initially planned to launch its flights to Entebbe in September last year in vain.
Entebbe becomes its fourth destination in Africa. It currently flies to Mauritius, Nairobi and Addis Ababa.
”The airline will operate two weekly flights targeting labour export companies and business people”. said Shafiq Senteza, an employee of Saudia
Victor Shalton Odhiambo, a writer with Airspace Africa last year cited data from Sabre Market Intelligence indicating that traffic between Saudi Arabia and Uganda totalled 23,000 two-way passengers in 2019.
Vianney Luggya, the Spokesperson of Uganda Civil Aviation Authority-UCAA, says that Saudia’s entry is a vote of confidence in Uganda’s air transport system.
Mr Luggya added that the entry of Saudia is expected to boost passenger traffic to the Middle East, which has key destinations in United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Oman among others.
Saudia brings the number of international flight operators to Entebbe to 17. The last company to inaugurate its flights was Air Arabia on October 12th, 2021. It flies to Sharjah in the UAE.
“For now, we are happy about direct flights to Riyadh because the workers, mostly first-time travellers aboard Qatar Airways would wait for almost eight hours in transit at Doha. So non-stop flights are a great relief,” said Mr Ronnie Mukundane, the Spokesperson of the Uganda Association of External Recruitment Agencies-UERA
He welcomed the arrival of the new airline and added that over 200 licensed companies will get cheaper fares.
The launch of Saudia’s direct flights also comes at a time when Uganda and the Saudi government have signed a bilateral agreement to protect the rights of Ugandan migrant workers in Saudi Arabia.
In October 2021, Uganda and Saudi Arabia renewed their ties by signing a Memorandum of Understanding-MOU to deepen cooperation. Gen. Jeje Odongo, the Foreign Affairs Minister attended the function where he urged his Saudi counterpart to invest in Uganda’s mining, tourism and agricultural sectors.
He also asked them to import milk, vegetable and spices among other products from Uganda.