The induction of the A330-800 into Uganda Airlines’ fleet marks the beginning of a new growth phase for the national carrier. Combined with the four strong fleet of Bombardier (now Mitshubishi) CRJ-900’s, the development marks the first tentative steps in the evolution towards a network carrier. With a flying range of 15,094 kilometres, the A330-800neo, gives Uganda Airlines the capacity to fly from Entebbe to all the major markets without the need for an intermediate stop. Whether Uganda Airlines chooses to fly to New York or Beijing, the A330-800 has the legs to get there.
According to Uganda Airlines’ chief executive Cornwell Muleya, the two new aircraft will be used to launch services to Dubai, London and Guangzhou. The aircraft can also be used on intermediate routes to West Africa such as Lagos and beyond. With those initial routes, the A330’s will put Uganda on the path to meeting President Museveni’s ambition of connecting Uganda to its main tourism and business markets. London is a major source and hub for Uganda bound tourism traffic while Dubai and Guangzhou are key procurement hubs for Uganda’s business community. The aircraft will also come in handy on cargo heavy routes such as Kinshasa, which will be launched in the coming weeks.
Unlike its primary competitor, the A330-800 is a unique aircraft that can economically be used to operate both short and long-haul routes.
While Kuwait Airways was scheduled to be the first to operate the aircraft in commercial service, it was actually Uganda Airlines that kicked off sales of the A330-800 when it placed an order for an initial two aircraft, during the Farnborough Airshow in July 2018. Kuwait Airways followed suit with an order for 8 while an undisclosed customer has placed an order for 4 units.
Coupled with aerodynamic improvements to the wing and fuselage, the -800’s new generation 2.8-metre diameter Rolls-Royce Trent 7000 engines, have enabled the aircraft to burn 14 percent less fuel than its predecessor, the A330-200ceo (current engine option). The -800neo is designed to carry 220-260 passengers across a three-class seating arrangement over a distance of 8,150 nautical miles or 15,094kilometres. It can also pack 406 passengers in a single class configuration. Uganda Airlines has however, customized its cabin to a 261-seat cabin featuring 20 passengers in business class, 28 seats in premium economy, and 213 passengers in the economy class.
Airbus describes the A330 as an entry-level widebody which allows airlines to develop new routes with minimal financial exposure.
A330 builds on the proven economics, versatility and reliability of the A330 Family while reducing fuel consumptionThe A330 is the most successful widebody program ever, with a cumulative total of 1816 aircraft sold so far. In September, it became the third member of a select club of widebody aircraft that have registered more than 1500 deliveries.
Airbus launched the A330neo model in July 2014, offering two versions of the aircraft; the smaller A330-800 and the larger A330-900. Upgrades were made to the engines, the wing, cockpit as well as the interior of the aircraft which now features Airbus’ new Airspace cabin, which like on the A350 has a flat ceiling and near flat side walls. This design mutes the feeling that one is travelling in a tube and coupled with variable lighting schemes, makes for an extra-relaxing travel experience.
This is how Airbus describes the Airspace cabin: “The A330neo is the launch vehicle for the Airspace cabin philosophy, meaning its passengers will be among the first to experience new standards of on-board relaxation. Welcomed by wide seats and a beautifully lit cabin, passengers also can enjoy the latest generation of in-flight entertainment or take care of business with email and Wi-Fi capabilities. Whether it’s short, medium or long-haul, passengers can have access to everything they need to truly relax and enjoy the flight.
Utilising cutting-edge cabin developments first developed on the all-new A350 XWB and encompassing four key pillars – comfort, ambience, services and design – Airspace offers more personal space and a unique welcome area, as well as Airbus’ signature design elements – the combination of which create a cabin that represents the highest standards of design and luxury.”
From the operator’s perspective, the A330neo is a more efficient aircraft that will generate savings through its reduced fuel consumption. The latest-generation Rolls-Royce Trent 7000 engines which sip rather than guzzle fuel, along with aerodynamic improvements deliver a double-digit reduction in fuel consumption over the A330ceo.
For Uganda Airlines, the aircraft also plugs the upper end of the market and will create the momentum for the third phase of development that will see the addition of aircraft in the 100-150 seat range to fill the gap between the smaller CRJ’s and the twin aisle A330. As connecting traffic grows, the airline will need more capacity to connect Africa. That will require aircraft that are not only slightly bigger but also with more range than the initial fleet of Bombardier’s.