The United Arab Emirates has with immediate effect lifted a ban on transit flights from Uganda, the National Emergency and Crisis Management Authority (NCEMA) said on Friday afternoon.
The Gulf state, a major international travel hub, had banned passengers from Uganda and other African states travelling through its airports this year because of the coronavirus pandemic.
NCEMA said that passengers travelling from countries where flights had been banned would be able to transit through its airports as long as they present a negative PCR coronavirus test taken 72 hours prior to departure.
Mr. Vianney Luggya, a spokesperson of the Uganda Civil Aviation Authority also confirmed that the suspension of flights from Uganda to Dubai has been lifted with immediate effect.
“Passengers planning travel to Dubai can now get in touch with their respective airlines to schedule their flights. A happy new year to you all,” he Tweeted on Friday.
Travellers have welcomed the UAE government’s decision to allow travel to resume from the affected countries.
There was no immediate comment from other UAE airlines on the announcement, which also eased an entry ban on residents returning from countries where flights had been suspended.
Dubai is one of the top four routes from Entebbe International Airport, with an average of 17 flights a week.
These flights are operated by Uganda Airlines, Emirates, Fly Dubai, Kenya Airways and Ethiopian Airlines.
A spokesperson of Uganda Airlines said the airline will resume Dubai flights immediately— saying they have taken necessary key procedures to meet the set protocols.
“We’ve resumed our flights to Dubai and taking all measures necessary to make sure you’re protected when you travel with us. Effective from 08 January 2022 flights from Entebbe in Uganda will resume,” the airline said.
Among the new precautions the airline is taking include; passengers presenting a printed copy of a valid negative COVID-19 PCR test result (displaying a QR code) from a test taken at an approved health service no more than 48 hours prior to the scheduled departure of their inbound flight to Dubai.
Passengers are also expected to take a rapid PCR test (based on molecular diagnostic testing intended for the qualitative detection of nucleic acid for SARS-COV-2 viral RNA) at Entebbe airport (“Test & Fly Lab” only) no more than 6 hours before the departure time of the flight (the test report must display a QR code).
The airline says the new regulations do not apply to UAE citizens or other categories of exempted passengers as previously published.
The United Arab Emirates temporarily suspended flights from Uganda to Dubai in December 2021 although flights that are inbound from Dubai remained operational.
Ever since the ban, passengers from Uganda have been barred from entering Dubai as part of official policies to try and mitigate the spread of Omicron.
In October last year, the airline launched its first intercontinental flight to Dubai which has been one of its most lucrative.
During the week flights were suspended, Uganda airlines has been transporting mainly cargo between Entebbe and Dubai.
Airline officials say that this has inadvertently helped it to build its cargo capacity
“It has made us intensify our need to streamline our cargo operations. So that has helped the cargo department to be known in the market. Now the market knows that Uganda Airlines has a cargo flight, these are the prices and these are times. It has given us a chance to be known” Ms Jennifer Bamuturaki, the airline’s interim CEO said.
Initially cargo fetched the Airline around $13,000 a week but that has now risen to between $30,000 to $ 45,000. The Airlines target is between $70,000 to $100,000.