The adverts this week by Fly 540 Uganda, offering an all inclusive fare of US Dollars 350 between Entebbe and Mombasa, is set to ignite another round of hotly contested competition on the route to the Kenyan coast, especially in view of Air Uganda having being off the route for the low season though resuming flights shortly, while the rival low cost carrier is cashing in on their absence to firm up their market support.
Fly 540 presently requires a change of aircraft and clearing customs and immigration in Nairobi, at times seen as more than a little cumbersome, while Air Uganda, when they resume flights to Mombasa, will offer a nonstop flight to the coast, which then in fact extends on to Zanzibar again, connecting the two main Indian Ocean holiday destinations of Eastern Africa with Uganda.
Immigration and customs procedures are in fact one of the key roadblocks to greater travel by the extensive expatriate community in Eastern Africa, as notwithstanding their registration status in their country of residence they are still treated as foreign nonresident visitors when crossing the borders to another East African Community member state, requiring Visa payments and customs inspection, as if they were trying to smuggle dirty socks across the borders. For many the day cannot come soon enough when East Africa returns to the procedures of the ‘old’ EAC when the national borders had literally been eliminated and travel across the entire ‘scheduled territories’ was free of controls such as inflicted today on travelers. Airline chiefs in fact two weeks ago blasted politicians and governments for not implementing a common East African Visa for tourists from overseas and also critizised the lack of opening up internal borders to stimulate more airtravel across the region. It is high time therefore for East Africa’s politicians to act and to live up to their endless declarations of ‘unity’ when they talk of East African integration.