With the suspension of all passenger flights at the Entebbe International Airport, thousands of people have been greatly affected; from the airlines companies, airport staff to business people and also the drivers of the airport taxis.
The airport taxis in Uganda are well marked with yellow strips and the word “Airport Taxi”. Many people are hesitant to use them because they are seen as expensive for the ordinary layman so most of their clients are high end Ugandans, diplomats and tourists.
We talked to one of the drivers, Hassan Ssebantu, 45-year-old, who has been in the business since the year 2000. According to Hassan, before the passenger flights were halted, he would chauffeur an average of two to three customers in a day depending on their various destinations.
Asked why the clientele curve seems a bit low, Hassan noted that the traffic congestion in the city and its suburbs is the major hindrance.
“We also wish to take many customers but the problem is with the traffic we have in the city, you cannot take someone to Mukono at 9 am and pick another from Munyonyo to take them to the airport for their flight at 11 am,” Hassan narrated.
When the airports closed off to passenger flights, although it meant that business had stopped for most of the people, Hassan said that the drivers who have been in the Airport Taxi Drivers’ Association for a long time had invested in agriculture.
Most of them bought land in places near the airport, like Buwaya, Kasanje, Garuga among other places because they wanted to be near their place of work. They grow maize, beans, ground nuts and other food stuffs and to their advantage, those food stuffs have enabled them to survive during the pandemic.
However, Hassan said the younger drivers in the association are the ones who may not be well off because they had just started out their work lives and some of them are just out of university.
“Through the Airport Taxi drivers’ Association, we were able to give out posho and beans to some of the drivers to enable them to at least get what to eat,” Hassan said.
Hassan also mentioned that as a person, he built a clientele over the years and some of his clients have been sending him some money because they know that he is out of work at the moment.
Some of the drivers are now taking employees of the airport and the Civil Aviation Authority to work as a way to continue earning while others have had their cars parked at the airport since March as they focus on other things to enable them to survive.
His prayer is that business goes back to normal by at least October so that he and his colleagues also return to their business.