Rwandan President Paul Kagame on Rwandair flight from Entebbe to Kigali. Photo: www.flickr.com
RwandAir, the national carrier of Rwanda, is expanding its fleet with two new Airbus aircraft that will allow it to add medium and long-haul flights to Europe, Asia and the Middle East, the airline said in a press release.
RwandAir will be the first East African customer for the larger long-haul A330-300 Airbus airliner. It is also buying an A330-200Airbus. Delivery is expected in the second half of 2016.
“We have found the A330 to perfectly support our plans to expand into Europe and Asia, to enhance our regional presence, to open up new routes and to grow our market share,” said John Mirenge, CEO of RwandAir, in a prepared statement.
The aircraft are powered by Rolls-Royce — something that will maximize the revenue earning potential of the new aircraft, Mirenge said.
RwandAir has been quietly building a regional Africa network and hopes to establish Kigali as a hub for the continent with 40 percent of the airline’s traffic connections, according to the Australia-based Centre for Aviation, EastAfricanBusinessWeek reported.
The airline in May became a member of International Air Transport Association, giving RwandAir the go-ahead to fly to any part of the world. It flies to 18 cities in Western, Eastern and Southern Africa and the Middle East including Nairobi and Mombasa (Kenya), Entebbe (Uganda), Bujumbura (Burundi), Dar es Salaam and Kilimanjaro (Tanzania).
It’s also one of the fastest-growing airlines with one of the youngest fleets on the African continent, according to the Rwandair website
RwandAir Express was rated among the world’s safest for 2015 after passing an operational audit test by the IATA, according to EastAfricanBusinessWeek. Now it’s going after another certification — the IATA Safety Audit for Ground Operations — expected to be completed by June.
As RwandAir expands its fleet, it plans in 2016 to add a European destination — possibly London, Paris or Frankfurt — depending on who says yes first, Bloomberg reported.
The airline handled 500,000 passengers in 2014, 600,000 in 2015, and it hopes to carry 1 million passengers by 2017, Mirenge said in a Bloomberg interview.
The airline is also looking to add routes to “serve markets that we never thought would be covered,” Mirenge said, including to Benin, Ivory Coast, Mali, Malawi, Sudan and Zimbabwe, along with Guangzhou, China and Mumbai, India.
The airline is still operating at a loss. “The airline business is capital intensive, and the airline is still in this phase, still deploying heavy capital to reach and grow market share,” Mirenge told Bloomberg. “It’s going to take a bit of time to break even.”
The government-owned RwandAir wants to sell shares in the company to private investors but will delay an initial public offering until the company stops operating at a loss, Mirenge said.
With many of the big-league airlines operating at a loss in recent years, RwandAir has become the adopted airline for Ugandans, according to a report in eTurbonews.
Egypt Air, South African Airways, and Kenya Airways are in the red. Ethiopian Airlines is an exception, posting a profit of over $170 million US in 2015.
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