RwandAir looks to Enter US market by 2019

The recently acquired RwandAir A330-200 Airbus plane takes off at the Kigali International Airport. The national flag carrier is eyeing the US market as part of its expansion drive. / Timothy Kisambira

The national flag carrier, RwandAir, could start flying to the United States of America by 2019, officials have revealed.

According to the airline’s chief executive, John Mirenge, the national flag carrier targets to enter the US market with a route to New York “if all goes according to plan”. Africa’s youngest and fast-growing airline recently announced it would start flights to Gatwick, London’s second-busiest airport, next year. This is part of the airline’s strategy to penetrate overseas markets and open Kigali to the rest of the world.

Mirenge further said the airline would acquire another Airbus A350 XWB wide-body plane for the Kigali-US route. The A350 XWB is Airbus’ all-new family of wide-body aircraft that is shaping the future of medium-to-long haul airline operations. It is gaining popularity among airlines because it is fuel efficient and helps address increasing environmental concerns, as well as match growing passenger expectations, sector experts say.

The aircraft consumes 25 per cent less of fuel compared to its current aluminum long-range competitors. They also provide superior passenger comfort and have more personal space and bigger seats, particularly in the economy class.

This new-generation jetliner, which entered commercial service in January 2015, offers seating capacities of between 250 and 440. The aircraft comes with its three passenger versions: A350-800, A350-900 and A350-1000.

According to Mirenge, the ultra-long range configuration for the A350-900, the A350 XWB enables the aircraft to fly for up to 19 hours “making it a perfect match for RwandAir and its expansion strategy”.

He said Airbus and RwandAir were in discussions about the acquisition, but was non-committal on whether they have reached any agreement.

Recently, the airline acquired its first A330-200 Airbus aircraft to boost its fleet and capacity to compete globally. And it is waiting delivery of another wide-body A330-300 Airbus plane to further boost its fleet to serve planned destinations in Europe and East Asia.

Experts say RwandAir’s ambitious expansion strategy could help position it as a major aviation player in the next five years.

More routes

Mirenge said RwandAir plans to enter more markets soon, including Mumbai in India, Conakry in Guinea, Bamako in Mali, as well as Dakar, Senegal, Harare in Zimbabwe, Lilongwe in Malawi and Durban in South Africa.

Last month, the airline launched commercial flights to Cotonou in Benin and Abidjan in Ivory Coast as part of its strategy to expand its footprint and enhance connectivity in West Africa.

Presently, the airline operates 19 destinations, including Nairobi, Entebbe, Mombasa, Bujumbura, Lusaka, Juba, Douala, Dar es Salaam, Kilimanjaro, Cotonou, Johannesburg, Dubai, Lagos, Libreville and Brazzaville.

RwandAir is IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) certified. The globally-recognised and accepted evaluation certification confirms that the airline’s operational management and control systems meet international civil aviation safety and other standards.

Source: The New Times

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