RwandAir expansion plan on course as it signs deal for direct flights to Israel

Monday January 14 2019

RwandAir

RwandAir plans several long haul flights to the US. PHOTO | CYRIL NDEGEYA | NMG 

MOSES K. GAHIGI
By MOSES K. GAHIGI
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Rwanda’s national carrier has announced that it will “soon” start flights to Tel Aviv, Israel, after the two countries signed a bilateral air service agreement (Basa) on January 7.

RwandAir CEO Yvonne Makolo would not say when exactly the first flight will take off, but said it will be this year.

“We have signed a Basa. With this in place, we plan to fly there soon. I can’t specify the time but it will be this year,” she said. “The flights will come to ease travel between the two countries, and also deepen bilateral relations.”

The agreement was signed by Israel’s Transportation and Intelligence Minister Israel Katz and Rwanda’s ambassador to Israel Joseph Rutabana.

According to the deal, each country can operate up to seven scheduled flights between Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport and Rwanda’s Kigali International Airport.

Growth plan

RwandAir continues with its growth plan, which includes adding two A330-900Neo planes to its fleet, while it considers acquiring an Airbus A321LR and Boeing 737-7 to operate on its European routes during off-peak seasons.

Ms Makolo said additional aircraft will be purchased early and mid-2019, adding that one of the new planes will be deployed on the Kigali-Tel Aviv route.

The two A330s are expected to operate on the Kigali-New York route, preparations for which the airline is finalising.

The airline plans to fly to 31 destinations in Africa, Asia, Europe and North America. Other planned routes include Addis Ababa, Guangzhou and Conakry.

In 2017, the airline carried over 900,000 passengers, a figure expected to grow to 1.2 million passengers in 2018.

RwandAir recently added Abuja and Cape Town to its routes and signed Basas with Togo, Ghana and Angola.

The national carrier’s two wide-body aircraft — one Airbus A330-200 and one larger A330-300 — recorded strong load factors in 2018 on its first route to Europe from Kigali via Brussels to London’s Gatwick, but it plans to address this with the new aircraft this year, which will facilitate better fleet planning.

“This year looks positive there is already growth in passengers on the route,” the CEO said.

The airline is also pursuing a more favourable slot for the Kigali-Gatwick route.

“We are engaging the relevant authorities so we can get better slots. We prefer to arrive in London in the morning so that our passengers can easily connect to other flights,” she said.

US flights

RwandAir recently announced that it will fly from Kigali to the US using its West African hub of Accra once it gets the final approval from America’s Federal Aviation Agency.

It secured exemption authority and a foreign air carrier permit from the US Department of Transportation in May, but it is still working on securing approvals from the US Federal Aviation Administration.

“The plans to fly to the US and China are still on. It’s a long process, but we are trying to deal with all the bureaucracy involved so we can get the permits, its progressing well although we are not there yet,” said Ms Makolo.

The original plan was to start US flights by June, but this required that all of the approvals be done by early January or February, but the CEO said she is not sure that everything will be completed by then, although the June timeline still stands.

The US Federal Aviation Administration completed its audit of the Kigali facility last year, but the assessment report will first have to be completed before any major announcements are made.

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