By Paul Adude
Works and Transport Minister Katumba Wamala has said direct flights from Uganda to Saudi Arabia will ease movement for Ugandan pilgrims to make the trip to Mecca for Hajj every year.
Katumba made the remarks during the flag-off ceremony of the first batch of 250 out of 500 pilgrims that will be transported to Jeddah Mecca by the Uganda Airlines Airbus A330 to perform Hajj.
The official flag-off was witnessed by the Ambassador of Royal Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, to Uganda Sheikh Jamal Al – Madani, third Deputy Premier Rukia Nakadama, Muslim leaders, and diplomats at Entebbe International Airport.
Second deputy Mufti of Uganda, Sheikh Muhammad Ali Waisswa said they were pleased with the recovery programmes being undertaken by government which has allowed for the national carrier to take pilgrims to Mecca which last happened in the 1970’s.
The Chief Executive Officer of Uganda Airlines, Jenifer Bamuturaki said the inaugural flight to Jeddah makes it the first time in 40 years, for the national carrier to perform the holy operation in over 40 years.
Ms Bamuturaki said the airline has an operator’s permit which will run to July with scheduled flights soon set to be launched between Jeddah and Entebbe.
“The operators permit we have will run up to July, then we will extend it to July next year. We have a plan to start scheduled flights in September, we will be doing Jeddah three times a week” she said.
Bamuturaki added, “Internally we are grappling on when to launch since we are working with many stakeholders, the interesting is bit we already have a sales organization set up in Saudi, a general sales agent representing us. We are doing everything towards the launch of flights, we wouldn’t go beyond September,”