Pushed aside or voluntary isolated from the global alliances, built up by the major airlines, the Gulf carriers have extended their network even farther and seemingly with no limit.
Steadily cannibalizing the former main tourist flows, their hubs at the crossroads of many routes leading to Europe, Africa Australia and Asia, took advantage of the centre gravity's shift of the global exchanges towards the Middle East.
The Gulf Region is also within a few hours' flight of billions of people in Asia and Africa previously neglected by the airline industry.
THOSE airlines to be feared are statistically not consistently better value for money with regard to their direct competitors. However, they are famed for 1) the consistency of the faultless on board service often awarded by international prizes and 2) their aggressive marketing campaigns that leave a positive mark in the minds of the new generation of modern travellers.
Qatar Airways is an airline, in less proportion than its counterpart Emirates, that can not let anyone neutral. Indeed, it has been made clear that some of you hate it for so many justified reasons, in the opposite others who love it often choose it for any of their travels regardless the extra length of the journey.
On the 2nd of October 2012, many articles related the integration of Qatar Airways to the Oneworld alliance, meaning that the Gulf carriers may no longer be viewed with hostility by western airlines.
Following the Turkish Airlines' wish to open Kigali, dated back from July 2011, Qatar Airways released its massive 2012 expansion plans in December 2011, including the destination of Kigali – Rwanda –, supported by the staggering growth of its fleet. In spite the promising good news, the consequences seemed to appear as clear as crystal for the local medias such as the most famous "The East African" newspaper:
by Isaac Khisa, Michael Wakabi
East African airlines are set for a bruising battle for passengers as carriers go bare knuckle in a new round of competition that pits the region’s flag carriers against their gulf counterparts.
Air Uganda and RwandAir have gone head-to-head on the Entebbe-Kigali route after the latter launched its own morning flight, effectively shredding their existing code-share partnership.
Beside the price wars, which will most likely benefit passengers, the airlines have taken the battle to flight schedules with departures from Entebbe and Kigali separated by less than two hours on certain days, on a route that is known to be thin on passengers.
But as Air Uganda and RwandAir face off, the commencement of services between Entebbe and Kigali by gulf carrier Qatar airways and Turkish airlines poses another threat of competition for passengers.
Particularly significant for Air Uganda and Rwandair, is the fact that just like Ethiopian Air, which has introduced a second daily service on the Addis-Entebbe-Kigali route, Qatar has secured full fifth freedom rights, which means it can cannibalise local traffic between Entebbe-Kigali route although its timings and fares may not be that attractive to majority of regular travellers.
By extension Kenya Airways, KLM and Brussels Airlines are also put on notice as they stand to lose some of the Middle and Far East bound traffic that has been going through their respective hubs.
The entry of Qatar provides an alternative to the Middle East and Far East bound passengers from Kigali while Turkish Air offers an alternative transit hub for European and North American bound traffic out of Kigali.
Nairobi; Sunday, January 15th; 2012
Keeping this article in mind shall we go for this special inaugural flight on a fifth freedom hop?
It has been a while without publishing a TR here, hence this opportunity seemed perfect.
My brother (present at the KLM's inaugural flight) and his friend should have joined me onto this event, but a QR on line booking system failure (?) prevented them from joining me on the same arrival day's flight.
The overall good system got opened ticket sales to Kigali, from London and Manchester only. The rest of Europe as Paris or Nice convenient for them, was oddly suggested to take flight accordingly on the 21st of March into a connection that would land the 22nd March obviously.
The other options were either:
1) To fly to London or Manchester, which represented, time-wise, not a great solution, or
2) They had to get a visa of usd 50 to grab the fifth freedom right route from Kampala, as they have never yet requested the dual citizenship.Too much hassle especially for his mate whom loves East Africa but who is far away from being an the aviation nut! Pity but not hopeless
Qatar airways started the Entebbe route the 5th of November 2011, then on the10th of February 2012, Air Uganda terminated its Code Share agreement with RwandAir that was signed on the highly lucrative Entebbe-Kigali in June 2010.
To remind you the hopes carried by this initial agreement and/or to discover the product of the local competitor read this report:
Air Uganda trip report : Linking Other Great Lakes: Air Uganda + Rwandair (by eastafspot Nov 12 2010 in Trip Reports)
Located few miles away in the airport's vicinity, anyone can relax and enjoy the nice place alike fun fair called "Aero Beach" where some old birds are arranged in the pub's garden, nearby the lakeside and opposite the disused old runway. This sort of attraction forces obviously any aviation fan to stop by.
Photo © Melting Tarmac Images
Photo © Melting Tarmac Images
Photo © Michael Fabry
Traffic along the disused runway
Couple of Antonov AN-12 BP, Air Victory Georgia, 4L-VPI & 4L-ELE
Troubles began shortly afterwards...
Policemen decided otherwise on that day. While a selection of static display were tried to be taken, a patrol stopped by and investigated about my deepest motivations during at least 25 long minutes:
Police Officer: Are you taking pictures now?
East African Spotter: Yes, those airplanes can hardly be seen elsewhere!
PO: OK, are you a journalist?
EAS: No, but there is an inaugural flight today and some descriptions of the surrounding environment would have been nice!
PO: Maybe but there is currently a high level of security at the airport, so photos are not allowed whatsoever, you must delete them quickly!
EAS: Argh; nothing offensive or secret on this, what's wrong?
PO: you can delete them or your camera will be confiscated, and you'll have to pay a fine of Ush 100 000
EAS (erasing the last one only): that's not fair ! But OK done
PO: great, by the way can you show me the rest of your pictures?
EAS: huh really? (panicking and erasing two more)... yeah here we go
PO: but we can not see anything else? Hum strange You can go if you help us for a little Sprite!
EAS: ( camera switched off): for what? You cannot blame me for seeing anything because your injunctions have been strictly followed ! I must rush to catch the flight so let me go now!
PO: (trying to find something else, but unsuccessful). Don't even take another chance, as prohibited by law.
EAS: (relieved for not bribing) not a problem Sir bye.
Thanks god, only few of them have been saved, not the best though. After this little misfortune wasting my time, i had not choice than heading straight to the terminal building.
FOR SALE: Lockheed L-1011 TriStar, 5X-AAV
McDonnell Douglas MD-83, Swiftair operating for United Nations, EC-JJS
(Taken on the arrival day)
12h20 pm, the outside activity was intense here, some 30 policemen exited the place and forced me to forget about a front building picture. Also 2 days prior this date, a military operation seemed imminent with some UN soldiers from all around the world on the arrival hall.
All in all, 6 counters were opened including 2 for some U.N. Flights to Juba the other one to El-Fasher airport in Darfur.
Greeted in a courteous manner, i've requested the seat 1F, Oyolo a smiley Ugandan agent in her thirties answered with sadness that this specific seat was already occupied, but any others would be fine.
Very friendly, she handed over the travel documents along with the lounge invitation, and before the usual "have a nice trip" she mentioned about getting a wee shower later on! Instinctively i've turned back my head to check again the weather outside, scattered clouds mostly sunny! Fingers crossed no storm or cloudburst in Kigali!
Smirking, she finally purposed to picked me up in the lounge close to the boarding time
Check-in lanes for QR, EK and ET
Passport checkpoint and check-in desks
The Holy Grail .
The emigration process was a breeze, nevertheless the friendly officer remained skeptical about the combination of the airline and destination. Surely they do know the airport's timetable inside out hence he probably replied automatically " do you mean Ethiopian to Kigali?" before acknowledging the aforementioned information. Then he granted me the access, not without cracking a genuine smile and thanking me for the stay here!
ATR42-500, Precision Air to Kilimanjaro
The shopping mall
Thanks to our precious young fellow A.netter Sjacob, from Uganda, you've probably toured the air side of the terminal building a few time now in his nice reports from there, some outrageous priced duty free shops, a couple of eateries around and a disappointing view of the tarmac. For the latter, the best place found was located in the multi airlines lounge called Karibuni.
Surprisingly, it has amazed me how good it was: modern feeling, spacious, natural lighting, and comfortable furnitures. Along with all the basic needs common to any lounges. It provides also
- A pool table
- An armchair fitted with massage function ( cannot remember if it was free or not)
- An ideal view on to the airport activity
During his previous trip departing from Entebbe, where he wrote a report about KLM, Alex (abrelosojos) did not stay very long thus all those features could not be seen. (Of course, i guess that it has been upgraded and/or refurbished in a meantime)
Although convenient the downside appeared on the Internet, with free use of PC during 15 minutes on a rather erratic connection... oh well not a big deal!
Turkish airlines A320 & Emirates A380
Lounge's reading material
Pool table and DSTV screens, comfy seats facing the traffic.
External view towards the local traffic
The beauty just about to release travellers
Some starchy (and) junk food but so good !
Unsure about the inflight snack service, few samosas to nibble
Some nice waterfalls
At the centre, the bar (not on self service) and the food offering
Soft drinks and beers fridge
One of five a day .
Computers station: " Please limit your usage up to 15 minutes"
10 long minutes to load the coolest website's page .
The attractive local check-in agent, Oyolo, warned the passenger about the imminence of the boarding in a gate nearby.
The mess invaded the second security check due to the flights chartered by the U.N. To Juba and to El-Fasher in Darfur, not visible on the FIDS, and mine vocally announced here!
Some 25 minutes prior departure, the lounge gathered three passengers all travelling to Kigali, including me!
Among the two wazungu, a patient lady relaxed on the seats provided, while the guy quite stressed or excited presumably, walking back and forth across the room, started talking with her for a short period of time first, and then came to me asking the reasons of flying this day!
When Oyolo and her also cute colleague switched on the computer before boarding, he then asked if he could peek inside the corridor, luckily they answered yes, and from this moment this guy became very interesting, of course!
Wolfgang staring at Oyolo and her colleague preparing the embarkation
Three passengers will travel to Rwanda
A competitor heading off to Kigali, ET811 on climbing
The bus' ride happened with this relatively new A320-200 A7-AHF, owned by Qatar Airways since the 29rd of November 2010.
The excitement has been reversed onto disappointment, when the announcement of a delay was pronounced, without any time frame tough. The team stated that it was for cautious security reason with no further detail.
Photo © Zsolt Nekifor
Photo © goneless
Photo © Andreas Mueller - Spotterteam Graz
Anyway, following a very loooooooooooong 10 minutes wait; we were herded to the narrow body docked to an air bridge!
The lonely male pursuer Faysal welcomed us with elegance on board, then suggested the cloakroom and made me feel very comfortable. Still unhappy, i quickly discovered the reason of the online unavailability on the first row. The load factor on the business class cabin reached 50 % with exactly 6 passengers.
The German-speaking expatriate from Uganda took a seat initially on the 2F, argh, but with noooo negotiation possible he had to sit on his assignated number 2D, strange that he did not move to the 3F if he wished a window! After a further excellent talk with this Doctor, seeing him next to me was the best thing that could yet happened this day!
Surprisingly (internal rules or other reason?), QR prohibited the service of alcohol on the ground at Entebbe, so instead of sipping a conventional glass of bubbly, Asha, our main pursuer offered the signature drink's lemon mint. Absolutely gorgeous!
Then, she patrolled the cabin for distributing the noise cancelling headset, but not sure to find the appropriate moment to use it in flight, she intentionnally stopped by for 3 minutes and clearly questioned "why wasting such a long time???" before adding that the foldable PTV, containing the IFE, was already operational. She could not leave without a careful explanation of the whole IFE system...jeez .
The unique steward of this flight: Faysal
Seat 1F not available
Seat 2F not available: (t)his behaviour really got on my nerves .
A classy touch, (are they real?)
Pillow and blanket available
The welcoming drink: QR's signature lemon mint
Headset for IFE ready to use
While the push back and taxiing had started, some passengers were still standing in the aisle discussing like a ride in a simply urban bus.
Three-holers McDonnell Douglas MD-11 Freighter Avient Cargo
Good bye Entebbe
[Edited 2012-10-03 05:31:17]