RwandAir orders new planes, joins scramble for African skies

Saturday September 10 2011

One of RwandAir’s Boeing’s on the runway at JKIA, Kenya Picture: Berna Namata

RwandAir is planning to increase its fleet and form new partnerships with global airlines to prosper in the competitive African airspace.

The national airline is expected to receive its second Boeing 737-800 next month, expanding its fleet to seven aircraft, and increasing the frequency of flights mainly to Dubai and South Africa.

“The business is becoming terribly competitive; there is a lot of capacity being built if you look at the number of planes being ordered. Everybody is upgrading, buying more planes; this has made alliances inevitable,” John Mirenge, CEO RwandAir told The East African.

Regional airlines including Kenya Airways, Ethiopian Airlines, EgyptAir and South African Airways (SAA) have over the past few months been seeking to increase their share of Africa’s increasingly busy airspace.

Kenya Airways, for example, recently announced a strategy to spread its wings throughout Africa, with a new fleet of Brazilian Embraer jets. Kenya Airways — 23 per cent owned by the Kenyan government — has ordered 10 E-190 jets from Embraer, making it one of the Brazilian aircraft manufacturer’s top 10 customers in the world and the biggest in Africa.

Ethiopian Airlines is said to have ordered more than 20 new Boeing and Airbus airliners. RwandAir recently signed a memorandum of understanding with Turkish Airlines that will see the two airlines collaborate closely on schedule synchronisation, code sharing, technical support and training.


“Our strategy is to align ourselves with big networks. In this industry you rarely survive alone because you cannot fly to every spot but with alliances and partnerships — you are able to get your passengers into every part of the world seamlessly,” Mr Mirenge.
RwandAir is expected to break even by 2015 as government continues to revamp its operations including buying new equipment, hiring new staff and installing new systems.

The airline analysts will provide the required linkage as a resident airline to the country’s planned new Bugesera airport.

“RwandAir is growing as a regional airline and they have some key routes already. Africa should be the growth focus as the niche is there and the market, despite the existence of strong regional airlines is not saturated. We hope they will come to the stock exchange as they expand their fleet like Kenya Airways has done,” Kenneth Kitariko, the director African Alliance said.

The airline signed a tail-end loan agreement with the Eastern and South African Trade and Development Bank (PTA Bank), worth $60 million for the purchase of the two Boeings payable in 10 years.

The airline plans to increase its fleet to 12 aircraft in the next five years as it seeks to grow its market share across the region.

The airline plans to phase out the use of its 50-seater single cabin CRJ-200 as it grows its fleet with negotiations with Europe’s Airbus and Embraer, the Brazilian aerospace conglomerate, for future acquisition of aircraft.

The airline will increase flight destinations across Africa specifically in West Africa, after launching new routes to Central Africa particularly to Gabon (Libreville) and Republic of Congo (Brazzaville).

“Once we get the second (Boeing) in October then we shall commenc our flights to West Africa. In the course of next year, we will start looking at some destinations in Southern Europe,” Mr Mirenge said.