Rwanda’s flag carrier airline, RwandAir Thursday announced the suspension of its flights to and from Uganda’s Entebbe International Airport, allegedly due to a surge in COVID-19 cases in Uganda.
“Due to a surge in COVID19 cases in Uganda, RwandAir announces the suspension of its flights to Entebbe effective 10 June 2021 until further notice,” said the airlines in a notice.
Customers who had already booked for their destinations have since been advised to rebook and fly at a later date once flights resume, at no additional cost or request a refund.
While Rwanda cites COVID19 as the reason why they have suspended flights to Uganda, players in the aviation industry say the airline was making losses.
“Good way to sign out, the airline had dropped to between 6 to 8 patients from Kigali to Entebbe and sometimes no passenger from Entebbe to Kigali,” an aviation industry player closed to Rwanda said.
“How many of us can afford an air ticket to Entebbe? The few who could afford have also been effectively locked here (in Rwanda) just like those of us who used buses to travel to Uganda before Kagame closed the border,” said a Rwandan who request anonymity in order to speak freely.
Rwanda’s relations with Uganda have been frosty since February 2019 when Kigali unilaterally closed its border with Uganda at Katuna stopping movement of goods and people from either country. Rwanda at the time claimed the closure was due to ongoing construction of a road but President Kagame later said the reasons for closure were political.
He would later bar Rwandan nationals from crossing to Uganda by road through Katuna border. Rwandans who travel to Uganda by air from Kigali through Uganda’s Entebbe aiport were not stopped by the Rwandan authorities.
“It is ok, first of all, even if you fly to Entebbe, you go through a lot of questioning when you return here. So, people have been avoiding to travel in order to avoid trouble. In fact, the last time I travelled to Entebbe, we were only 8 on RwandAir,” said a Rwandan who contacted SoftPower News via Telegram to avoid detection by Rwandan authorities.
“My children live and study in Uganda. When our border was closed, I started flying to Uganda aboard RwandAir since that was the only option left. I don’t know what I will do to see my children,” another Rwandan said.
Uganda has registered a spike in COVID-19 cases since mid-April when the second wave began, registering an increase of more than 130 percent in recent weeks.
To mitigate the spread of COVID-19, the government imposed a partial lockdown for 42-days, including a travel ban between districts outside the Kampala Metropolitan Area, closure of schools and strict enforcement of curfew hours among other measures. However, air travel had not been affected.
Last month, RwandAir also suspended flights to and from Mumbai, India citing surging COVID-19 cases. Rwanda has however not announced a ban on flights from and to Uganda by other airlines but requires all arriving passengers to have a negative PCR COVID-19 test certificate issued 72 hours to the departing flight to Rwanda.