By Eddie Ssejjoba
Hundreds of travellers got stranded at Entebbe and other airports for over 18 hours as a Rwanda Air aircraft veered off and got stuck near the runway, leading to the cancellation and postponements of various flights.
Passengers with scheduled flights got stranded at Entebbe after their travels were cancelled, several others who were scheduled to land at Entebbe had their flights halted, while others were diverted to Nairobi and other nearby international airports.
Flight companies affected included Uganda Airlines, Ethiopia Airlines, Emirates, and Rwanda Air, among others.
Uganda Airlines said in a statement that several of its flights were affected and these included UR202 to Nairobi, UR122 to Juba, UR360 to Bujumbura and UR342 to Mombasa.
It later issued a travel notice indicating that its flight operations for April 20, 2022, and April 21, 2022, had been rescheduled to a later time. They included flights to Nairobi, Dubai, Juba, Bujumbura, Mombasa, Mogadishu, Johannesburg, and Dar es Salaam.
“New timings will be advised as soon as the runway is open and when the airport is back to normal operations,” a statement from Uganda Airlines indicated.
Several other travellers got stuck in the Middle East, South Africa, Nairobi, Mombasa, and other places.
The CAA management had indicated that following an incident on Wednesday (April 20) morning, at about 5:31 when a Rwanda Air CRJ 9 aircraft, flight number 464 veered off the runway on landing due to bad weather, the situation had normalised.
“All the passengers were disembarked safely, and the situation is under control. The second (alternate) runway 12/30 is operational for small and light aircraft. All efforts are underway to remove the aircraft from the runway strip so that the main runway can return to full use,” the CAA statement indicated.
But several flight companies continued informing their customers that their flights had been diverted to land in Nairobi while the runway was being fixed and their expected arrival and departure times had since been affected.
“Please keep monitoring as UCAA continues to update us through the different media channels,” one of the flight companies tweeted.
The CAA spokesperson, Vianney Luggya, however, later explained that owing to safety precautions, Entebbe International Airport’s runway 17/35, which was earlier reopened for operations had been temporarily closed.
“Arrangements had been put in place for flights to land and take-off with precautions, but during the process of removal of the Rwanda Air aircraft from the runway strip, it got stuck closer to the runway, which called for a review of the previous clearance,” a statement issued reads in parts.
Luggya said efforts were ongoing to resolve this “as soon as possible”.
Shortly after midnight on April 21, 2022, Luggya communicated that the aircraft had “just been removed, we are going to open immediately”.
By 6:45 am on Thursday, Luggya assured the travellers that the flights had resumed.
“We had opened the runway at about 5pm and informed all airline companies that they could take off and land with safety precautions, but in the process of removing the Rwanda Air aircraft, it got stuck near the runway, which forced us to close during the night for some time until we cleared it,” he told journalists.
He said that airline companies had been updated but did not elaborate on who would be responsible for compensating hundreds of travellers and cargo that got stuck during the period.
Many frustrated passengers at Entebbe airport complained that nobody was updating them on their next scheduled flights.
They said they lacked necessities like food, water, and bedding as they waited for the next course of action.