Along with plans to add two A330neo planes to its fleet, RwandAir is considering purchasing Airbus A321LR and Boeing 737-7 to operate on its European routes during off-peak seasons.
This is in a bid to address the load factor issues it experienced this year.
The two A330neo’s are expected to be delivered in January and February 2019 and will operate the Kigali-New York route, which the airline is in final stages of preparing for.
The national carrier’s two wide-body aircraft — one Airbus A330-200 and one larger A330-300 — experienced strong load factors this year on its first route to Europe from the capital of Kigali via Brussels to London Gatwick.
Speaking to Air Transport World on the sidelines of the recent IATA aviation day in Mauritius, the Rwandair CEO Yvonne Manzi Makolo said that despite having many British tourists visit Rwanda, they have had an issue of load factor during the low season.
“British tourists travel to Rwanda in big numbers. However, during the low season, the A330s may have too much capacity,” she said, adding that looking at the A321LR and 737-7 for fleet planning is an ongoing process.
“The 737-8 would not have the range for Europe and two 737-8s will join our fleet next year. A huge number of Africans are living in the US, but we also want to bring more tourists to Rwanda,” said Ms Makolo.
RwandAir decided not to exploit the economic authority permit it was awarded in May, which grants it permission to fly to the US market through a code-share partner, preferring to wait for the direct flight permit to the US.
The airline has been pursuing a permit to operate direct flights to the US since it made a formal application in March 2017. The FAA audit that determines whether the carrier will get the permit was supposed to happen in September, but is still pending.
The FAA technical review assesses compliance of airport operations based on international aviation regulations and standards. The plan is to have the licence for direct US flights before Bugesera Airport opens. The country already has a bilateral Air Service Agreement (Basa) with the US.
RwandAir already passed the IATA Operational Safety Audit and also secured a ground-handling certificate. The country was also recently awarded with a Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) certificate in recognition of its improved capabilities in overseeing and managing safety and security in the aviation sector.
It recently added two new destinations of Abuja in Nigeria and Cape Town in South Africa, and also signed Bilateral Air Service Agreements with Togo, Ghana and Angola.