It was hugs and smiles at Terranga restaurant in Bugoloobi Kampala on Saturday Jan 11, as the workers of the former Uganda airlines met for the first time as a group after more than twenty years since they parted company.
“Happy new years! I am so glad to see you after so many years,” were some of the hearty comments by long lost friends and workers of arguably Uganda’s most prestigious company before the privatisation era.
Although some had crossed paths in Kampala and other parts of the globe, or kept communication links after the company was abruptly closed in 2001, many had indeed never met. In fact because some had left the company before others joined it, some of them were mere acquaintances whom they had probably heard about or read about in company records.
With many of them now grey haired and retired at home or in other private business, the QU family, as they fondly described themselves, reminisced about the good old days, but also about the shocks they encountered when the former national career was abruptly closed by a cabinet resolution after years of bad business that was precipitated by the removal of the ground-handling arm.
The revival of the national career last year, though with a different flight code of UR, in one way or another galvanised the mobilisation of this group through social media as many all of a sudden recollected the memories of yesteryears of working in an airline.
At the party that attracted around 60 former QU staff, a sumptuous lunch, taking of photographs dancing and cutting of a cake, made the re-union utterly enjoyable. In fact some carried memorable personal items such as the green jackets or the white scarves that were emblazoned with national colours and a flying crane, helped to bring back the memories. Others carried staff badges that in many ways helped them relive the good old days.
Someone jokingly commented that the jackets and badges made them look like war veterans deserving of national medals.
With so many years down the road, many have obviously left this earthly world, and it was all so proper, as they did, observed a minute of silence in respect to the souls of those people they once shared space with.
While some are certainly not looking for jobs in the revived company, with age and technology not in their favour, all of them wished good luck to the new Uganda airlines.
Still, a few of them, especially those who are active service in the airline industry either as pilots and airline consultants, see themselves as of value to the new outfit.
Captain Firoz Khimji, who still flies with Singapore Airlines, for example expressed openness to re-joining Uganda Airlines either as a pilot or in a private business offering Crew Resources Management (CRM) services and training. This he said would be a fantastic retirement option as passes-on invaluable knowledge and experience he has gathered over four decades working in different airlines.
Others such as Alice Katiti, who has stamped her know how in a number of now vibrant careers in the region, exuded confidence that she’s still very competent to take on new tasks, especially as a consultant and trainer.
There’s no doubt the combined experiences of the veterans of the airline industry is likely to spark some business ideas.
For others though, keeping the social bond by for example supporting each other during periods of trouble, appears to be a much more attractive prospect going forward.