RwandAir’s move to buy two new $250 million Airbuses is expected to give the carrier a competitive edge in the regional aviation industry.
The national carrier received one A330-200 Airbus on Wednesday, and is expected to receive a second one in November.
The wide-body aircraft has a passenger capacity of 244 and offers RwandAir capacity to serve 25 targeted destinations by 2018, up from 18 destinations.
Meanwhile, Tanzania has bought two new Bombardier Q400 aircraft, while Uganda is also investing heavily to revive its aviation sector after Uganda Airlines ceased operations in 2001.
“The A330-200 is the first of its kind in East Africa and will help RwandAir expand its reach globally,” said John Mirenge, CEO of RwandAir.
RwandAir is confident that the acquisition of the new aeroplanes will see an increase in passenger numbers, and expects to hit one million travellers in the next five years, boosted by new routes.
The two Airbuses are expected to start flying “by the beginning of next year,” said Mr Mirenge. Targeted routes include cities in India, China and destinations in Europe and Africa.
Long-haul flights will target destinations in Europe like London, Paris and Frankfurt. Asian destinations will include Mumbai in India and Guangzhou in China.
“We are targeting more than one million passengers for the year ending July 2017,” said Mr Mirenge.
The airline’s debt however increased with the acquisition of the new aircrafts, but officials are optimistic the carrier will be profitable by 2018.
In a previous interview with The EastAfrican, Mr Mirenge had said that whereas RwandAir has posted losses “year after year,” the airline’s projected performance looks healthy.
RwandAir’s latest purchase comes at a time when major airlines in the region are riddled with debt and are unable to maintain or add to fleet numbers.
For example, Kenya Airways is seeking an investment of about $1 billion to turn its fortunes around after announcing losses for four consecutive years.
The Rwanda government also plans to begin construction of a new international airport — worth over $418 million — in Bugesera in Eastern Province.
READ: Rwanda bets on new airport to grow conference hub status
The first phase of the airport is expected to be complete by December 2018.