SECOND FLOODS IN A WEEK SHOWS THE ROT IN DRAINAGE SYSTEMS
Kampala is flooded was the essence of communications from the city for the second time within a week, when thunderstorms of biblical proportions his the Ugandan capital and the skies opened up, causing metre deep floods and worse within an hour. Low lying areas, reclaimed wetlands and former swamps, were filling up fastest, showing the people who built houses into these sensitive areas what fools they were to ignore advice to stay out of wetlands. The famous Clock Tower roundabout and entrance into the main Central Business District was flooded once again, as were sections of the Entebbe road, where drainage channels are clogged up with discarded plastic bags, making it impossible for water to drain off and flooding surrounding areas. Here travelers trying to get to the airport were reportedly stranded and subsequently missed their flights, as were arriving passengers from the airport trying to reach their hotels stuck in the murky waters, often so high that it was leaking into their transfer vehicles while attempting to get to their hotels.
Medical concerns have been voiced immediately by NGOs and health staff that many of the wells, used by people in particular in slum areas, where no or little piped water is available, were flooded and contaminated leading to the risk of the outbreak and spread of disease.
The rains, unusually heavy once again and a reminder of the ongoing climate change, are also causing further crack on the slopes of Mt. Elgon where a rift has opened up in recent years and continuously grown wider, now at some places almost two feet wide. Deforestation, caused by illegal squatters, is to blame here but generally, flash floods have become more common in rivers and streams due to often illegal and indiscriminate felling of trees along river banks and catchment areas. Clearing of forests for the making of charcoal too have been cited as a major reason for the continuous deforestation in the country and a toothless National Forest Authority, emancipated by the political masters and drowned in controversies, seems unable to fully execute its mandate as required under the law.
A timely reminder how much worse all this could become, should the plans of the powers that be to hive off over 7.000 hectares of prime tropical rainforest at Mabira come to reality, as the planned sugar cane plantations would barely hold a fraction of the rainwater the forest now absorbs.
Floods in Kampala, the price we pay for poor city management, intolerable absence of regular clearance and cleaning of drains by the city council and the environmental sins of our fathers coming home to haunt us.
While massive loss of property was reported thankfully no lives were lost, or reported lost at the time of going to press.
Archive for November 5th, 2011
SECOND FLOODS IN A WEEK SHOWS THE ROT IN DRAINAGE SYSTEMS
QATAR AIRWAYS CEO AL BAKER GRACES LAUNCH OF DAILY FLIGHTS, MEETS MEDIA
The outspoken Chief Executive Officer of Qatar Airways, Akbar Al Baker, was in Kampala for the inaugural flight between Doha and Entebbe and took the opportunity to address local, regional and global media representatives at the Kampala Serena Hotel, where the various launch activities were centred, befittingly matching 5 star in the air with 5 star on the ground.
Giving a broad overview about the history of Qatar Airways, the CEO also outlined the additional complementary services owned and operated at Doha International Airport, such as ground handling, catering, duty free operations and the Oryx Hotel, managed on behalf of the airline by regional hotel group Rotana. Notably it was mentioned that over 250 Ugandan citizens are already employed by QR and deployed in a variety of positions with the airline in Doha, in Kampala and at the Entebbe International Airport. More, it was understood from a Qatar Airways HR staff in Kampala for the launch, were being recruited soon for cabin crew and other positions.
It was also pointed out that an extensive interline agreement had been signed recently with Precision Air to widen the reach across Tanzania, where double daily flights presently are operating to Dar es Salaam. New destinations in the region, after Entebbe, were given as Mombasa and Zanzibar, though no details on the flight routing was mentioned, i.e. a combination of both or an extension of some of the double daily frequencies from Nairobi or Dar respectively. Mr. Al Baker also expressed his interest in flying to the Rwandan capital Kigali, which however is presently still under discussion with negotiations going on for a bilateral air services agreement. What is clear though is a strong and growing commitment by QR to comprehensively cover the African continent and provide further options and choices for travelers connecting in Doha into the airlines global network.
While discussing the flights to Uganda it was also learned that Qatar Airways, probably in view of the A 320 used on the route for the daily flights not being able to uplift palletized cargo, was now flying twice a week a dedicated A300F to Entebbe to airlift fresh produce, flowers and fish to the Gulf and other consumer markets.
Once in Doha and connecting on the airlines wide body planes, the true extent of the 5 star service becomes apparent for passengers, as the cabin layout for instance in the B777 was a generous 2x2x2 flat bed configuration in business class and an even more generous 3x3x3 configuration in economy class, generally a seat less in each row than QRs closest rivals offer.
Al Baker, visibly beaming with pride when making this announcement, said the average age of the airlines fleet was less than 4 years, and growing younger with the delivery of more aircraft at regular intervals, and that its order for the A350, now under development by Airbus, was the largest of its kind for the European manufacturer. The A380, of which Qatar Airways currently has 5 on order, will begin to join the fleet in 2012 and while not being drawn into more details, Al Baker did say that he will make a bombshell announcement at the Dubai Airshow in a weeks time, when and here this correspondent has to speculate for the time being a major additional order for the giant A380 will be made public. This aircraft notably will carry a three class configuration while all other wide bodied aircraft only offer the award winning business class and the equally award winning and extra spacious economy class.
In this connection it is noteworthy, and in fact a dead giveaway about the forthcoming order announcement here I personally think only the size of the order is in question and possibly stretching to dozens that the new Doha International Airport, due to open next year, is actually designed around the A380 becoming the airports dominant aircraft. Developed at a cost of around 14.5 billion US Dollars the new airport, only a few kilometres from the present facility, will in its ultimate development stage be able to handle 50+ million passengers, a sign of the supreme confidence that Qatar had as a country and Qatar Airways has as the national airline in their ability to grow way beyond average and increase their market share, within the Gulf region and globally, at the expense of others faced with infrastructure constraints, lack of slots, ageing fleets and lower service levels.
At the new airport Qatar is setting another world first with the construction of the largest ever maintenance hangar, over a kilometre long and able to accommodate at the same time 2 A380, 3 B777 aircraft and a number of other smaller aircraft. This state of the art maintenance facility is primarily aimed at maintaining the QR fleet but will arguably also carry out contract maintenance for other airlines.
All the senior executives of Qatar Airways present never failed to stress the point that service, on the ground and in the air, was the key to the airlines success and that they were truly pulling out all the stops to give the perfect service, or as perfect as humanly possible to retain the global number one spot as established by Skytrax in regular surveys over the past years. Human resource development, and recruitment of the brightest and keenest, was therefore a cornerstone of the airlines success, as was continuous training.
Sustainability was another area of the media briefing, when it was highlighted that Qatar was pioneering new fuels in cooperation with major oil companies to further reduce carbon emissions.
When questions were fielded at the end of the presentation, Mr. Al Baker then commented on a range of issues, such as the EUs ETS, which while calling it the EUs right to introduce he also blamed for increasing fares and cost of airtravel. In the same breath he termed the current trend of governments attempting to fill their empty coffers by taxing airlines with a range of green or eco taxes as bullshit, making it clear he did not think that any of those proceeds would be used to improve aviation facilities or in fact mitigate carbon emissions and climate change but simply as yet another tax to be spent on matters unrelated to aviation.
Asked though about his airlines projected market shares a few years down the line he was notably shyer and not commenting, in itself probably answer enough that when the new additional A380 order is announced in a couple of days in Dubai, the trend and intent will be written on the wall for all to see. This will apply for in particular the North American and European competitors who will continue to trail in the wake of aviations greatest earthquake in terms of market share re-distribution seen in a generation, moving traffic from the traditional aviation powers to the cash rich, visionary and enabled leading Gulf airlines soon operating from new mega airports which serve as their global hubs from where one can reach any point on the globe nonstop.
For now though, Uganda is rightly proud to have been able to attract Qatar Airways to come into Entebbe on a daily basis, unlike other airlines which after years and years of operation still fly only three or four or five times a week a bold statement by QR that they are here to make an immediate impact and take the market by storm, with excellent fares and the best service available in the air anywhere. From this correspondent it is a warm welcome and many happy landings in the Pearl of Africa and across the network.
KENYA AIRWAYS JAMBO JET TO BRING SHOCK AND AWE TO RIVALS
Kenya Airways own new low cost carrier is likely to take to the skies by late Q2 or earlyQ3 according to an announcement made by Dr. Titus Naikuni, KQs CEO and Group Managing Director.
The airline will commence operations with at least some planes of its own, thought to be in an all economy configuration but could also get access to KQs planes, likely the Embraer fleet, to complement operations in the early stages.
The news, given during the media and investors briefing earlier in the week, sent cold shivers down the spine of the competition, already reeling from KQs determined re-entry last year of the domestic market, where a bitter battle has been ensuing for dominance on the routes between Nairobi and Mombasa and Nairobi and Kisumu. While presently only one daily flights of Kenya Airways connects Nairobi with Malindi, for the time being one should add, Mombasa has seen the shuttle come back with up to 10 flights a day between the two cities and Kisumu is being served three times a day. Privately owned airlines on these most important domestic jet routes saw in addition to this capacity increase the challenge to their own market shares via the fares, as KQ introduced stand by fares and a range of low fares not just competing with other LCC operators but on occasions undercutting them. A superior loyalty programme for frequent flyers added to the attraction of flying with Kenya Airways and the arrival on the scene next year of Jambo Jet will only fuel the cut throat competition on key domestic routes.
Expectations are now that the new airline will enter the market with a combination of shock and awe, by offering state of the art aircraft, a well oiled operations machinery to back them up and extraordinarily low fares, though little if any inflight service or amenities.
When they closed Flamingo a few years back it was a failed experience then and their distribution in the market and using turboprop aircraft was not taken up by travelers the way they had hoped. I think they learned lessons from that failure and even chose another name, signaling a fresh start, a serious start. There are lots of ways Jambo Jet can save money in a range of areas. That allows lower fares. Jambo is aimed to increase group market share for KQ but also to disturb other operators and for them it will be a fight for survival from month to month. I think when this venture takes off it will come with a big bang, very low fares and attractive departure times, good marketing and the backing of a big organization. Yes, it will cause shock and awe in the market amongst competitors and travelers said a regular source when discussing the options Kenya Airways had with the entry of Jambo Jet. Watch this space over the coming months for more emerging news and how the new battle for the skies over Kenya will unfold.
ETHIOPIAN AIRLINES AIMS FOR AFRICAN TOP SPOT
Only a day after reporting here about Kenya Airways ambitions in the months and years ahead did information reach from a periodic source in Addis Ababa, putting Ethiopian Airlines also into the frame and into the race for top honours in Africa.
Already one of the continents leading airlines, and applicant member to join global industry leader Star Alliance in the not too distant future, Ethiopian has maintained its standing as a Pan African airline, connecting the world to Africa through their hub in Addis Ababa, and while not as media savvy as nearest rival Kenya Airways, has operationally moved ahead, almost under the radar of the media spotlight, to cement its place as a leading contender for the continents top spot. Leading in international destinations, the most of any African airline, they are neck on neck with Kenya Airways in terms of continental reach and the announcement by KQ to fly to every political and commercial capital in Africa by the end of 2013 has seemingly only strengthened the resolve in Addis to give as good as they get.
ET, according to information available, presently operates a fleet of 47 passenger and cargo aircraft and has a further 30 planes on order, including 10 B787 Dreamliners and 12 A350, which will allow the airline to phase out the aged B767 fleet while catering for growth via added frequencies and new destinations. Rival Kenya Airways currently operates a fleet of 33 aircraft, likely to double by 2020 while Ethiopians own forecast is looking at 70 aircraft within a similar timeframe.
Besides passenger operations ET is also leading in terms of their cargo operations and orders for dedicated B777F aircraft have been placed with Boeing to complement and eventually replace the existing freighter fleet presently comprising 5 cargo aircraft. In contrast here is Kenya Airways only just entering the dedicated cargo market with the arrival of a B747F this month and at least two additional B737F in early 2012.
Interesting enough, South African Airways or Egypt Air, two other leading airlines on the continent, are both members of Star Alliance, and with the expected entry of Ethiopian into Star will become the number one alliance in Africa, especially considering ETs start ups in West Africa also singing to the family tunes. Neither of them however can presently match Ethiopian in terms of reach and market strength and while both have ambitious expansion plans, Egypt Air still suffers of political events earlier this year while South African Airways, by any standards, is playing catch up with KQ and ET when it comes to connecting the continent.
Interesting times ahead for African aviation, also putting the notion to rest that ALL of Africas aviation ventures are moribund, unsafe and lack vision and ambition. Not in the case of Ethiopian Airlines for sure. Watch this space.