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Uganda Airlines likely to Pocket billions as Airlink Halts Entebbe-Johannesburg flights

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South African airline Airlink announced its withdrawal from the Johannesburg-Entebbe route, effective August 28, 2023. In response to persistently subdued post-pandemic demand, TheCEO and Managing Director of Airlink, Rodger Foster, has attributed the move to the unyielding commercial unviability of the route due to thin traffic volumes.

Uganda Airbus

Airlink, a South African airline, has stated that stopped operating on the Johannesburg-Entebbe route as of August 28, 2023. The CEO and Managing Director of Airlink, Rodger Foster, has ascribed the decision to the route’s stubborn commercial unviability due to low traffic numbers in response to chronically weak post-pandemic demand.

Prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Airlink had been operating the Johannesburg-Entebbe route exclusively, offering six weekly flights with a sustainable level of viability. However, with the outbreak of the pandemic and ensuing travel restrictions, the aviation industry faced unparalleled challenges, leading to a significant drop in passenger demand.

In July 2021, as travel restrictions were lifted and Uganda and South Africa reopened their markets for intra-African travel, Airlink took steps to revive its services on the Johannesburg-Entebbe route. Despite best efforts to stimulate travel between the two cities, the anticipated surge in post-pandemic demand failed to materialize, resulting in a sustained weakness in passenger traffic in both directions.

Rodger Foster, Airlink’s CEO, expressed the airline’s dilemma in light of the persistently tepid demand. He stated, “Despite our best efforts to promote traffic between the two cities, the post-COVID demand in both directions has remained weak and traffic volumes are too thin to support competing airlines.” The decision to halt operations on the route stems from a pragmatic evaluation of the market dynamics and the financial feasibility of maintaining the route in the current circumstances.

In response to the withdrawal, Airlink has initiated proactive measures to assist affected passengers. Ticket holders booked on the Johannesburg-Entebbe route are being offered the option of a full refund or the opportunity to be re-routed on one of Airlink’s daily flights to Nairobi, with onward connections to Entebbe. The airline’s commitment to passenger satisfaction remains a priority, even amidst challenging operational decisions.

Airlink’s decision comes with an element of future flexibility. The airline expressed its intention to closely monitor the market and signalled its readiness to reinstate services on the Johannesburg-Entebbe route when traffic volumes demonstrate the capacity to sustain competitive operations. This signifies Airlink’s commitment to resuming the route when market conditions become more conducive.

As the aviation industry gradually recovers from the far-reaching impacts of the pandemic, airlines are faced with the intricate task of recalibrating their operations to match fluctuating demand patterns. Airlink’s decision to suspend the Johannesburg-Entebbe route underscores the complex challenges faced by airlines in navigating the evolving travel landscape.

The announcement serves as a reminder of the industry’s adaptability and resilience. While certain routes may be temporarily withdrawn due to market conditions, the intention to reevaluate and potentially reinstate services when market dynamics shift highlights the industry’s forward-looking approach.

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