Entebbe International Airport (IATA: EBB, ICAO: HUEN) is the only international airport in Uganda. It is located about 6 kilometres (3.7 mi) southwest of the town of Entebbe, on the northern shores of Lake Victoria. This is approximately 40 kilometres (25 mi) by road south-west of the central business district of Kampala, the capital city of Uganda.
The headquarters of the Civil Aviation Authority of Uganda have been relocated to a new block off the airport highway (Entebbe–Kampala Expressway and Tunnel Road), but adjacent to the airport terminals.
The airport was opened by the British Colonial authorities. According to the website of the Uganda Civil Aviation Authority, due to the airport’s location on Lake Victoria and the existing facilities, the colonial government decided that the most optimal location for aviation traffic was Entebbe.
On 10 November 1951, the airport was formally reopened after its facilities had been extended. Runway 12/30 was now 9,900 feet (3,000 m), in preparation for services by the de Havilland Comet. The new main terminal building of the airport was designed by Yugoslav Montenegrin architect Aleksandar Keković and built by Energoprojekt holding in 1972-1973 period.
The Old Entebbe airport is used by Uganda’s military forces. It was the scene of a hostage rescue operation by Israeli Sayeret Matkal, dubbed Operation Entebbe, in 1976 after an Arab-German hijacking of Air France Flight 139 following a stopover in Athens, Greece, en route to Paris from Tel Aviv. The scene of that rescue was the old terminal, which has been demolished, except for its control tower and airport hall. According to a 2006 published report, plans were made to construct a domestic passenger terminal at the site of the old airport. The airport was partially destroyed in April 1979 when it was captured by Tanzanian forces during the Uganda–Tanzania War.
According to ThePrint in November 2021, reports in African media suggest that China could take over the airport over the default of a loan, which was denied by China’s foreign ministry and Government of Uganda. Bloomberg News reported that the Ugandan government is seeking to amend a $200m loan agreement it signed with the Export-Import Bank of China in 2015, to ensure it doesn’t lose control of the airport, citing a report from the Daily Monitor, an independent Ugandan daily newspaper. On December 1, 2021, the Attorney General of Uganda stated they had seen the story regarding the airport in media and that it was reportedly fake news.
Modernization plans: 2015–2033
In February 2015, the Government of South Korea, through the Korea International Cooperation Agency, gave the Government of Uganda (GOU) a grant of USh 27 billion towards modernization of the airport. In the same month, the GOU began a three phase upgrade and expansion of the airport to last from 2015 until 2035. The entire renovation budget is approximately US$586 million.
Phase I – 2015 to 2018
- Estimated cost of US$200 million, borrowed from Exim Bank of China.
- Relocation and expansion of the cargo terminal.
- Construction of new passenger terminal building.
- Modernizing and improving existing passenger terminal building. Entebbe Airport in 1994Entebbe Airport in 2009
- Renovation and rehabilitation of “Runway 12/30” (the old runway), is expected to conclude in February 2019.
In March 2022, online and print media reported that the Chinese-built cargo center, capable of handling 100,000 metric tonnes of cargo, had begun commercial operations. This had replaced the old cargo facility with capacity of 50,000 metric tonnes, originally converted from an old aircraft hangar.
Phase II – 2019 to 2023
- Estimated cost of US$125 million, not yet sourced.
- Expected delays due to Covid-19 pandemic.
- Relocation and expansion of fuel storage facilities.
Phase III – After 2024
- Estimated cost of US$160.5 million, not yet sourced.
- Building new multi-story car park.
- Construction of new control tower
- Strengthen and reseal current runways.
Expansion of departure and arrival lounges
In April 2016, Minister of Works John Byabagambi launched a USh 42.6 billion (US$11.4 million) project to expand the departure and arrival lounges. The work will be carried out by Seyani Brothers Limited and will be fully funded by the Civil Aviation Authority of Uganda. Construction is scheduled to commence on 1 June 2016 with completion expected in December 2017. This work is separate from the large expansion partially funded by the government of South Korea and People’s Republic of China.