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National carrier: Uganda leads, emerges world youngest fleet operator

By Wole Oyebade
21 January 2022   |   3:41 am
Nigeria and Uganda both set out to revive their defunct national airlines in 2018. About four years into the race, Uganda Airlines has gained altitude with a fleet now ranked as the youngest by any airline globally in 2022.

Nigeria and Uganda both set out to revive their defunct national airlines in 2018. About four years into the race, Uganda Airlines has gained altitude with a fleet now ranked as the youngest by any airline globally in 2022.

Uganda Airlines, apparently showing the Nigerian authorities how to do it, started small with brand new six aircraft.

Nigeria is scheduled to roll out ‘Nigeria Air’ in the first quarter of 2022, with two borrowed aircraft. In four years of testing the waters, the project has nothing on ground yet.

Without the pandemic alibi, ch-aviation’s database showed that Uganda Airlines has paraded the world’s youngest fleet for the second year on the bounce.

The airlines’ small fleet comprises four Bombardier CRJ900s aged from 2.29 to 2.75 years old. These are joined by a pair of rare Airbus A330-800neos, aged 1.13 and 1.17 years old.

Other top five youngest fleets cited by ch-aviation are Chilean SKY Airline, Salam Air in Oman, Viva Air in Colombia and Saudi Arabian Flyadeal.

Flying a young fleet is a plus for any operator. Younger aircraft typically use less fuel and thus, give off fewer emissions while being cheaper to run. From a passenger’s point of view, the cabin will usually be less worn, while comfort may be increased compared to older aircraft.

Like Nigeria Airways, old Uganda Airlines bit the dust in 2001 after years of aerial woes. The Ugandan government decided to have another go at the national carrier in 2018 and by August 2019, the airline returned to the sky.

The Ugandan Cabinet was clear-headed and with good grip on what to do. Wide consultation and studies recommended the government’s equity investment of approximately $70 million and loans totalling $330 million borrowed from regional lenders. Endorsed too were the six new aircraft, two of which will be the wide-body, long-range A330-800 and the other four being CRJ900 aircraft, to service both local and regional operations.

A review of the timelines showed that in May 2018, the airline placed orders and made part-payment for six new air planes. March 2019, all 24 Ugandan cockpit crew had been trained and certified. In April 2019, the first Bombardier CRJ900 arrived. April to July 27, 2019, the Air Operator’s Certificate (AOC) was processed and awarded by the Uganda Civil Aviation Authority.

On the morning of 28 August 2019, Uganda Airlines had its first commercial flight. Effective March 2021, Uganda Airlines entered into an interline agreement with Emirates Airlines.

Behind Uganda, according to ch-aviation, Chile’s SKY Airline has the youngest fleet in South America and the second-youngest fleet globally. While the airline was founded 20 years ago in 2002, it doesn’t have any aircraft left from the early days.

Today, it operates a fleet of 24 aircraft. Like all the other airlines so far, SKY only operates the Airbus A320 family. The airline has 21 A320neos and a further three A321neos. Of these, the oldest is a 3.37-year-old A320neo.

Oman’s Salam Air claims the crown as operating the youngest fleet in Asia, a title which means it has the world’s third-youngest fleet. Salam Air has a relatively small fleet of aircraft with just seven jets, all of which come from Airbus’ neo family of aircraft. Alongside one A321neos, the airline also has six A320neos, the oldest of which is 5.29 years old.

Colombia’s Viva Air has the second-youngest fleet in South America and the fourth-youngest fleet overall. Like flyadeal, the airline exclusively operates A320s, both ceos, and neos. Of its 19 aircraft, Viva’s oldest plane is a 12.75-year-old Airbus A320ceo registered HK-5221. The airline’s next oldest plane is 3.29 years old, suggesting it may well rank higher in the top five if HK-5221 didn’t drag it down.

According to ch-aviation’s data, Saudi Arabian airline flyadeal has the world’s fifth-youngest fleet. The airline’s 16 aircraft have an average fleet age of just 2.76 years, giving some idea how high the bar is set to make the top five. The airline’s oldest aircraft is an Airbus A320ceo aged just 4.43 years.