The unfavourable slots that RwandAir operates on its Kigali-Gatwick route are affecting its performance, as passenger numbers post a reduction this year, compared with the same period last year, according to international air passenger data.
In January, the national carrier recorded 1,332 passengers, a 48 per cent reduction compared with the 2,584 recorded in the same period in 2018.
In December 2018, the route recorded 2,297 passengers, yet the previous year it recorded 2,397 passengers, representing a four per cent reduction.
The airline launched its three-times a week flights from Kigali to Gatwick (Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays) in May 2017, without any direct competition on the 6,560-kilometre route, but as time went on the route presented its challenges.
The recent momentum built by a campaign to sell Rwanda as a tourist destination — epitomized by signing of a sleeve deal with top premier league football team Arsenal — was expected to drive this route, but this is yet to happen.
RwandAir’s two wide-body aircraft — one Airbus A330-200 and one larger A330-300 — ex- perienced strong load factors last year from Kigali via Brussels to Gatwick, and this is expected to be addressed with the upcoming aircraft acquisitions.
“We are trying to get better slots for the Gatwick-Kigali route, we are engaging the relevant authorities about the issue. Our customers prefer to arrive in London in the morning so that they can easily connect to other flights,” said RwandAir CEO Yvonne Makolo.
RwandAir faces competition from other bigger airlines like KLM, Brussels, who ply the European routes, and currently have morning slots.
It is also worth noting that its regional competitors, Ethiopian Airlines and Kenya Airways each get more traffic flying from Heathrow.
RwandAir can now fly to the USA through a code-share partner, after the airline secured the economic authority licence, but its target remains getting a direct flight permit to the US market, as it also waits to finalise other routes like Guangzhou China, which officials say is close to being finalised.
The airline plans to add two A330 neo planes and an Airbus A321LR to its fleet, to deploy on its new African and international routes.