RwandAir has suspended flights to and from Entebbe International Airport in Uganda with immediate effect.
The airline said the affected customers “can rebook and fly at a later date, once flights resume – or request a refund.”
“Due to a surge in Covid-19 cases in Uganda, RwandAir announces the suspension of its flights to Entebbe effective 10 June 2021, until further notice,” Rwanda’s national carrier said in a statement.
Uganda has seen an upsurge in new confirmed coronavirus cases and deaths in recent days, forcing authorities there to impose a partial lockdown of six weeks.
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) also suspended flights from Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Zambia over coronavirus (COVID-19) infections. Uganda has recently seen a surge in coronavirus infections and deaths.
Dubai is one of the top four routes from Entebbe international airport, with an average of 16 flights a week. Ethiopian Airlines, FlyDubai and Emirates are among the airlines that operate the Dubai route from Entebbe. Uganda Airlines has also been preparing to launch flights to Dubai at the end of this month.
The UAE’s National Emergency Crisis and Disaster Management Authority (NCEMA) says the suspension will take effect this Friday, June 11. Also, travelers who were in the three countries 14 days to their flight to UAE will be denied entry.
However, departing flights from UAE to the three countries and also transit flights heading to these destinations will not be affected. UAE nationals, diplomats, official delegations, and businesspeople with prior approval and essential job holders as prescribed by the Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship are exempted from the travel restriction.
The move has now thrown Uganda’s over 200 labour ‘externalisation’ companies in crisis as most of their clients who take in Ugandan workers are in the Middle East to which Dubai international airport in the UAE is the key gateway.
Many of the labour workers are in United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and Iraq as domestic workers, cleaners and security guards.
Meanwhile, airlines in East Africa are back to the drawing board as a resurgence of Covid-19 further disrupts global travel amid the need to save jobs while turning cash positive.
Executives at Kenya Airways, RwandAir and Uganda Airlines all concede to a challenging business environment that has seen a rise in costs, cutbacks in capacity and a revision of business projections to adjust to the new market realities.
In its first briefing for the year on January 12, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) said that while the transition from cash-burn to cash-generation was in sight, the next six months would be difficult for airlines.
Uganda, Kenya and Rwanda had earlier suspended passenger flights from India amid that country’s surge in COVID-19 cases and fears that a number of African countries are on the brink of their own surges.
Many countries are restricting entry for travelers who have visited a variant virus hotspot, including the UK, Brazil, and South Africa. Travelers from neighboring countries may also be restricted.