Airports around the world are highly regulated by ICAO-International civil aviation organization which is a specialized agency of the United Nations that coordinates the principles and techniques of international air navigation, and fosters the planning and development of international air transport to ensure safe and orderly growth. ICAO roles include, establishing and reviewing international technical standards for aircraft operation and design, crash investigation, the licensing of personnel, telecommunications, meteorology, air navigation equipment, ground facilities for air transport, and search-and-rescue missions. Entebbe airport- Uganda is a member of ICAO hence mandated among other issues to provide a safe and secure airport for passengers and other stakeholders.
Uganda civil aviation authority
Uganda Civil Aviation Authority (UCAA) is a corporate body established under the CAA Act No 3 of 1994, Cap 354. CAA is propelled by the cardinal objective of its establishment that is to promote the safe, secure, regular and efficient use and development of civil aviation inside and outside Uganda. In order to effect this obligation, a number of mechanisms have been put in place especially in terms of logistics and human personnel. Creation of Aviation security-AVSEC and operations department have been paramount is ensuring a safe and secure environment at EIA. Therefore, CAA has provided facilities and well trained certified work force to run the airport facility notwithstanding the challenges associated with individual errors.
Then why the backlash?
Media continues to publish different testimonies on individual experiences at Entebbe airport. There has been a backlash on how passengers are mistreated while going through Entebbe airport. The authenticity of these allegations can be settled after through investigations.
However, I choose to share with the public some facts as a person who has worked at airport for the last 3 years and two months. Most allegations boarders on extortion, bribes, rudeness by airport workers among other accusations.
Sometime last year, I penciled down an article on air travel. This was because of seeing so many passengers either missing flights, losing their valuables while travelling, missing necessary travel documents among other issues. In my article, I summarized the dos and don’ts for travelers.
From the social media audios, videos and texts, a number of people have complained of the airport personnel extorting money from them for various reasons. The common denominator in these allegations, are passengers that were going for work on individual basis. Currently, for one to go Middle East or any other country for unskilled labor, he/she has to go through a legalized registered recruitment company. However, a good number of people choose to go on individual basis, this attracts attention of Ministry of Labor officials at airport, immigration officers, airline officers etc. when these people are identified by any of the above officers, the process of bribing starts. Depending on the officers on duty’s integrity levels, one will take the bribe or the other will say no. this is where the name-calling and accusations will start from. If all Ugandans comply with this requirement of going for labor through registered agencies, this bribing game would die out.
Late comers- LMCs
Airports all over the world have designated secuirty and operations protocols that passengers must comply with. Some airports will have a few secuirty points while others may have many depending on the secuirty threats. At Oliver Tambo airport in South Africa, one go through one security checkpoint, at Entebbe, you go through security checkpoints. This means, one needs more time to go through Entebbe airport. secondly, the traffic of the day, at EIA, afternoon hours, the queues are long, emirates, Ethiopia, 3pm KQ, Air Arabia all arrive almost same time( 2-3pm), this means that long lines begin at road toll, departure tents, x-ray machines, check-in counters, immigration tills etc. Passengers travelling at peak times may need to arrive at airport three hours early than those travelling at less peak hours. This leads to LMCs. So, when late comers miss their flights, they will blame AVSEC officer manning the departure tent gate. Travelers need to know that check-in counters close one hour before departure to allow passengers checked in to clear with immigration, last security checkpoint, boarding gate clearance, ramp bus transfers, loading of bags and cargo, airside operations clearance etc. A number of times, I have received passengers complaining that I was at airport 30 minutes before departure but I wasn’t allowed in. 30 minutes before departure is too late for Uganda airlines Dubai bound flight. We need 1 hour to board 200 passengers. Avsec receive instructions from airlines to close departure gate for specific airlines. These guys are being unfairly accused.
Entebbe International Airport handled 151,653 international passengers in July 2022, an average of 4,892 per day. Before covid19, the number was even higher than this. Out of such numbers, some will miss some flights, others will have some cases against one or two officers this does not make Entebbe Airport hell. Let’s be fair.
The moral struggling society we live in.
CAA recruits its workers from largely Ugandan communities. These workers are trained, screened, vetted before deployment. There is a quality assurance department to closely monitor individual behaviors. Those reported with cases, are thoroughly investigated and appropriate remedies administered ranging from warnings, reprimands, suspensions, terminations and dismissals as well as criminal prosecutions. We have witnessed many CAA employees and other agencies at airport lose jobs or leave us. However, let us acknowledge that there is visible moral degeneration in the societies we are living in. The corruption levels in Uganda have touched the skies, domestic violence in our families has tripled, and the economy is so bad that people have no option but to either steal or aid stealing. It is now garbage in garbage out. CAA picks its employees from a moral struggling society and that is why we have such bribery and other cases at the airport. over 2000 people work at airport daily and certainly, a few will be the spoilt tomato among the many good ones. What’s import is having a mechanism of identifying and dealing with the bad apple. And I have seen this happen. Airport leadership does kill an eye for any suspected or confirmed wrong doers.
The high appetite social media Ugandans
Tiktok app has drived Ugandans crazy. We must agree that Ugandans have unlimited appetite to be on social media at whatever cost. Airport is a high security national facility, which should be guarded with every effort it deserves. The hungry social media Ugandans are not mindful of this. Tourist and other investors may shun Uganda because of irresponsible social media postings.
Lost and found desk.
If you want to know how professional EIA is and has been is by looking at the lost and found desk operations. Many passengers leave behind valuables at different points in the airport. Items ranging from wallets, expensive electronics (laptops, watches, jewelry,) belts, travel bags and other items. These items are picked by Avsec , taken to duty office for recording and safe custody until claimants physically come or send third parties to claim them. These are issues unmentioned but so pertinent in service industry like an airport.
Airport going through infrastructure development.
Currently Entebbe airport is undergoing several structural changes and these have somehow interfered with smooth passenger movements. This also increased appetite of the bad people. It has provided avenues for criminals to maneuver with their ill motives.
How to deal with pertinent issues going forward
Visibility of the office of duty office
CAA has two senior offices on duty everyday- AVSEC Duty officer-commonly known as DO. Duty officer’s office is located near departure tent. However, this office is unknown to passengers. This office should be relocated to check-in counters area and should be well labelled and easy to identify. The DO should put on a sash kind of. In the army, this person is called an orderly sergeant. He/she puts on a red sash for easy identification.
Improvement on reporting/whistle blowing channels and timely feedback.
Whereas CAA has shared some numbers and an email address where concerns can be reported, introduction of a WhatsApp number would be good. In other entities where I have worked before, whistle blowing lines and emails would be domiciled with a third party agency that is contracted by CAA. This agency receives the complaint, removes the address of the complainant and send the body of the text only. This is done to protect the complainant from harassment and witch-hunt.
Initiate and sustain a toll free call center.
Call centers can be helpful especially to those passengers that need urgent attention or with information to share with management. CAA should ask all airlines to have airport toll free line on their tickets and boarding passes. Information is critical for feedback.
Worst 10 corrupt airports in the world with precedents
- Port Harcourt International Airport, Nigeria
- Jeddah King Abdulaziz International Airport, Saudi Arabia
- Kathmandu Tribhuvan International Airport, Nepal
- Tashkent International Airport, Uzbekistan
- Caracas Simón Bolívar International Airport, Venezuela
- Port au Prince Toussaint Louverture International Airport, Haiti
- Kabul Hamid Karzai International Airport, Afghanistan
- Ho Chi Minh City Tân Sơn Nhất International Airport, Vietnam
- Islamabad Benazir Bhutto International Airport, Pakistan
- Paris Beauvais-Tille Airport, Paris, France
On 14th May 2015, a one Oliver Chouraki was scammed of extra kilos charge at JFK airport in USA on his return journey to Paris. He parted with 140USD being cost for extra 7 kilos when he actually had 14kilos instead of 27 allowed in checked luggage.
Between 2010-2014, JFK airport paid 2MUSD as fines and compensation for theft, pilferage and other related compensation of lost, stolen and tampered with baggage.
In conclusion, UCAA management has already made positive changes in a bid to realign passenger safety and security but also have initiated disciplinary processes for those implicated. Its on record that prior to these allegations, many of CAA staff and other stakeholders at airport have lost their staff through different levels of disciplinary actions. The most culprits being immigration, GHAs and airlines staff. What is on record is that CAA does not accommodate criminality of any form at the airport only that most of the actions taken are not for public domain. The public should give benefit of doubt to CAA that the airport has been and will remain safe for passengers, staff, contractors and other stakeholders. Any out of order incidents should be reported through the availed channels or any person in CAA uniform. Social media is counterproductive. It may solve one issue but breeds a number.
Uganda needs tourists, investors and good reviews. Information on social media is uncontrollable and liable to being distorted. Our country’s in house problems are better handled internally than social media platforms. Remember a good Uganda for you today, tomorrow and the other day. We owe our next generation a safe and secure nation.
For God and my country.
Safety and security consultant.
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