RwandAir expansion put on hold until the new year

Sunday December 22 2019

An aircraft at the Airbus delivery centre awaiting delivery to RwandAir. PHOTO | AFP

An aircraft at the Airbus delivery centre awaiting delivery to RwandAir. PHOTO | AFP 

MOSES K. GAHIGI
By MOSES K. GAHIGI
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Rwanda’s national carrier RwandAir goes into the new year uncertain of when it will expand its fleet, after it announced yet another delay in getting new aircraft.

The airline started the year with plans to add two new A330-900 Neo, an Airbus A321LR and two new Boeing 737-Max aircraft to reinforce existing routes and operate new routes, but things did not go as planned.

One of the setbacks came with the back-to-back crashes involving Boeing 737 Max, including the Ethiopian Airline crash in which all 157 passengers died. Like many airlines this made RwandAir to shelve pending purchase orders.

In October, the RwandAir CEO Yvonne Manzi Makolo said new aircraft will come before 2019 ends, but this has not happened.

Speaking to The EastAfrican, the global director of sales and operations at RwandAir, Jimmy Musoni, said they had “experienced delays in terms of aircraft delivery.”

“The two Airbuses that were scheduled to come had their delivery times changed by the manufacturer. We shall have clear dates of delivery by the end of February,” he said.

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He added that they have had to downgrade a few routes in order to accommodate new ones.

The biggest news for RwandAir this year was the impending purchase of a stake in the airline by Qatar Airways.

Qatar Airways recently agreed to take a 60 per cent stake in Bugesera International Airport, whose construction is now estimated to cost $1.3 billion up from $825 million, while the government of Rwanda retains 40 per cent stake.

The region’s aviation industry is getting more competitive as some neighbours rejuvenate their carriers and others expand their fleets.

For example, Uganda Airlines will now fly to Zanzibar three times weekly, bringing the number of destinations to eight.

The airline already has scheduled flights to Kilimanjaro, Nairobi, Mombasa, Mogadishu, Juba, Bujumbura and Dar es Salaam.

Chief executive Cornwell Muleya said this was part of its plan to expand its network.

“An airline is only as good as its network. We are building a regional network and then go international,” he told The EastAfrican.

The airline boosted its fleet with the arrival of two new 76-seater bombardier CRJ900. It has also ordered two Airbus A330-800 Neos.

- Additional reporting by Jonathan Kamoga

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