Civil Aviation Authority has defended the shs150 billion that its officials say is needed to allow Entebbe International Airport to sustain normal operations after being closed for over three months due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
Following the announcement of a lockdown President Museveni in March, the country’s only international airport was not spared as the government banned movement inside and outside Uganda for fear of the spread of Coronavirus.
Early this week, CAA officials told parliament that they need a shs150 billion financial assistance for Entebbe airport to resume operations, a move that has attracted debate both in parliament and among the public, especially on social media.
However, in a statement released on Thursday, CAA insisted that the money will enable the sustainability of air transport operations for the next financial year but not a precondition for reopening the airport.
“We are mandated to regulate air transport in Uganda, manage and operate Entebbe International Airport and other aerodromes and we derive revenue for the day-to-day running of activities, including infrastructure upgrade from air traffic in and out of the country. Suspension of passenger operations in March 2020 negatively impacted this revenue, which is used to sustain operations at Entebbe International Airport,” the Civil Aviation Authority said in the statement.
CAA said that whereas they previously collected and an average of shs20 billion per month, only shs1 billion was collected in March and that the situation is worse at the moment, predicting that it is not likely to improve in the next few months because the aviation industry will not immediately pick up in terms of passenger traffic even when 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 Covid-19 through air transport.”
The body in charge of airports and aerodromes in Uganda says that as part of recommendations from international bodies, they are required to ensure social distancing of passengers, disinfection of luggage, facilities, rapid testing before check-in, and disembarking as some of the guidelines to prevent the spread of Coronavirus.
They say that implementing such directives requires a lot of funds that they currently don’t have.
“Adhering to social distancing at airports will require a lot of interventions, including additional space, terminal modification, expediting the on-going terminal expansion and acquisition of self-service kiosks for check-in to reduce human interface in the passenger facilitation chain. Some of the above, which were planned for the medium -term now require short term implementation to achieve the desired lounge sitting that ensures that social distancing standards are adhered to, among others.”
CAA explained that the airport currently experiences space constraints leading to congestion especially during peak hours which calls for more space to avoid long queues, whereas, more advanced equipment for the search park, new cargo centre, and the existing terminal will be required.
According to the aviation body in Uganda, whereas all the above was in their plan, the current Coronavirus pandemic has necessitated that they are implemented as soon as possible but the finances are not readily available.
“All these require massive financing yet the revenues have dwindled. Civil Aviation Authority substantially finances recurrent and development expenditure using internally generated revenue, which is not available at the moment.”
CAA noted: “The shs150 billion bail-out that the authority requested for is meant to meet maintenance, operational and other associated costs for a whole year from July 2020 to June 2021.”
The body insisted that the money is not a precondition for reopening the airport as had earlier been reported but rather to ensure smooth operations for the entire year.