Jet fuel costs flying above our planes, says Uganda Airlines chief


KAMPALA | With forecasts predicting an average jet fuel price of $113.8 per barrel in 2024, translating into a staggering total fuel bill of $281 billion globally, airlines are bracing themselves for substantial operational impacts.

During an engagement with media managers in Kampala on Friday, Uganda Airlines' chief executive Jenifer Bamuturaki underscored the necessity for proactive responses to mitigate the adverse effects of escalating fuel costs on the airline industry.

She highlighted the imperative for swift action in navigating the challenges posed by soaring fuel prices.

"We are implementing comprehensive fuel conservation strategies across our fleet, including optimising routes, enhancing aerodynamic performance, and deploying advanced fuel-saving technologies," she explained.

Bamuturaki emphasised a multifaceted approach aimed at enhancing operational efficiency and cost management within Uganda Airlines.

"We are actively exploring partnerships with fuel suppliers to secure favourable pricing agreements and mitigate the impact of volatile market conditions,” she added.

Rising fuel prices can force airlines to raise ticket prices, cut costs in other areas, or even ground flights.

In 2008, for instance, a spike in fuel cost to over $140 per barrel forced many airlines to raise ticket prices and cut costs to stay profitable.

Bamuturaki expressed confidence in Uganda Airlines' ability to navigate the turbulent economic landscape while maintaining its commitment to service excellence.

"Our focus remains steadfast on delivering unparalleled value to our customers while safeguarding the financial sustainability of our operations," Bamuturaki stated.

She pointed out the financial struggles faced by airlines despite benefiting various industry stakeholders.

She supported her statement with data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA), projecting industry revenues to reach $964 billion in 2024, with net profits projected at $25.7 billion but expenses expected to grow to $914 billion.

Regarding Uganda Airlines specifically, Bamuturaki acknowledged the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and the region's economic, infrastructure, and connectivity challenges.

Despite these challenges, Bamuturaki highlighted the positive trajectory of Uganda Airlines at the operational level.

The airline is meeting 66 percent of its operation costs from the revenue generated through passenger and cargo operations.

She emphasised the value Uganda Airlines brings to the economy, including supporting connectivity, paying substantial tax revenue to the Uganda Revenue Authority (URA), and contributing to the local economy through supplier payments.

Looking ahead, Bamuturaki outlined the airline's strategy to consolidate and enhance operational efficiency.

This included rationalising the fleet by introducing appropriate aircraft for different market segments and expanding the route network.

She expressed the airline's intention to open new routes to Abuja, Riyadh, Jeddah, Lusaka, Harare, Cape Town, and China.

Bamuturaki expressed the airline's readiness to provide journalists with information and context, highlighting the importance of aviation journalism in Uganda for fostering industry growth.

Uganda Airlines was revived in August 2021, two decades after the national carrier was liquidated following years of mismanagement.

Bamutaraki took over the airlines top job in 2022 from commercial managerial position.

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