RwandAir faces turbulence

Wednesday January 16 2019


RwandAir currently has the A330-200 and Boeing 737-800. The national carrier is expecting new aircraft early next year. PHOTO | CYRIL NDEGEYA  

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Despite service glitches experienced in the past few months, as well as flight delays and cancellations — mostly due to rapid growth and bad weather — RwandAir pledges to do its best to address these issues even as it continues its expansion plans.

Sources say the airline was affected by scheduling issues especially towards the end of the year when many of its pilots went on holiday, which disrupted operations.

Many irate passengers took to social media to complain about the poor service by the airline, which included poor baggage handling with some passengers losing their bags and yet to be compensated.

When Rwanda Today talked to Yvonne Makolo, the CEO of RwandAir, she said the airline is doing its best to address the service glitches even as it expands.

“We have been having visibility problems due to bad weather hence the flight delays. We have also grown rapidly in terms of passengers, aircraft and routes, which has caused some of these issues, but we are trying to mitigate this through automation of baggage handling, plus having additional resources on the ground,” said Ms Makolo.

Although the airline has largely enjoyed a fruitful year — riding on the country’s booming conference tourism and new routes like the Kigali Gatwick route — the deteriorating service could dampen the airline’s prospects.

Expansion plans

When all the planned new routes, which include Addis Ababa, Guangzhou, Tel Aviv-Israel, Conakry, and New York, are operational, the airline will be flying to 31 destinations in Africa, Asia, Europe and North America.

In 2017 the airline carried over 900,000 passengers and this number is expected to increase to 1.2 million passengers in 2018.

RwandAir 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.

The national carrier will also add two A330neo planes to its fleet, while it also considers purchasing Airbus A321LR and Boeing 737-7 to operate on its European routes during off-peak seasons. Ms Makolo said additional aircraft will be purchased early this year.

The two A330neo’s are expected to 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 in 2018 on its first route to Europe from Kigali via Brussels to London Gatwick, but it plans to address this with the new aircraft, which will facilitate better fleet planning.

RwandAir recently announced that it will fly from Kigali to the US via Accra.