RwandAir plans for direct flights to America now in high gear

Sunday March 18 2018

National carrier RwandAir. Preparations to have

National carrier RwandAir. Preparations to have the licence for direct US flights have started. FILE PHOTO | NATION 

By MOSES K. GAHIGI
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The Rwandan government plans to expand Kigali International Airport’s existing terminal to include a new waiting area for passengers as part of a bid for a licence for RwandAir to operate direct flights to the US.

The plan is to have the licence for direct US flights before Bugesera Airport opens.

Rwanda Today has learnt that preparations have started for a technical review by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) scheduled to take place on April 23. The review will involve assessing compliance of airport operations based on international aviation regulations and standards.

This follows an application for a licence by the national carrier — RwandAir — to operate flights to America.

The country currently has a bilateral Air Service Agreement (Basa) with the US. RwandAir is also carrying out its own parallel preparations to make sure everything is in place for the assessment.

“It is true the airport is going to be audited and the airline is in advanced preparations for flying to the US and we are trying to see that everything is in place,” said Jimmy Musoni, the head of commercial planning at RwandAir.
He said the airline has already passed the IATA Operational Safety Audit and also secured a ground-handling certificate.
“The route based audit is currently on-going,” added Mr Musoni.

New destinations

RwandAir recently added two new destinations of Abuja in Nigeria and Cape Town in South Africa. The airline says these destinations are a big boost to its revenue and will also help enhance the economies of the three countries in terms of tourism, trade and bilateral partnerships.

The Abuja flight will be part of the existing Accra route, where the flight will stop in Abuja before heading to Accra four times a week.

RwandAir was recently granted the fifth freedom by the Nigerian government to fly without any limitations along the Abuja-Yaoundé route in West Africa.

Besides its long haul flights from Kigali to Mumbai, London (Gatwick) and Brussels, RwandAir is also banking on its African routes to destinations like Harare, Dakar from its new hub in Cotonou, Benin. It also introduced flights to Abidjan, Libreville and Brazzaville from its Cotonou hub.

This year, RwandAir is planning to fly to Guangzhou in China, Addis Ababa in Ethiopia, Bamako in Mali and Conakry in Guinea.

More opportunities

Rwanda also recently signed a bilateral air service agreement with Cape Verde, creating more opportunities for the national carrier and the country’s private sector. Other planned destinations include Lilongwe in Malawi and Durban in South Africa.

The airline carried more than 650,000 passengers in 2016 and projects to transport over three million travellers in the next five years.

With a fleet of twelve aircraft including two wide-body Airbus A330 bought last year, the airline currently flies to 24 destinations across East, Central, West and Southern Africa, the Middle East, Europe and Asia.

The direct flights to the US are expected to unlock huge potential for Rwandan traders who are already taking advantage of the airline’s reduced cargo rates for export products.

RwandAir recently introduced a reduced shipment rate of $0.95 per kg for Rwandan exporters taking goods to destinations flown by the airline.

International tourist arrivals to Africa increased by eight per cent in 2016, with a total of 58 million tourists bringing in $35 billion, according to the 2017 African Airlines Association report.

The report also showed that destinations in East Africa saw a 12.2 per cent growth in 2017, particularly from European visitors, who increased by 16.3 per cent.

Total scheduled capacity for international flights to the EAC were up by nine per cent — with Kigali leading the growth by 89 per cent.