RwandAir goes all cargo to stay afloat

Tuesday June 23 2020

RwandAir cargo flights to Guangzhou (China)

RwandAir cargo flights to Guangzhou (China) remain ad- hoc depending on demand. Photo | Cyril Ndegeya  

MOSES K. GAHIGI
By MOSES K. GAHIGI
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Rwanda’s national carrier RwandAir is bracing for tough times, with officials saying they don’t expect to recover this year as the Covid-19 pandemic continues to paralyse the aviation sector.

Three months since suspension of passenger flights, the airline has been incurring expenses ranging from overhead costs, aircraft maintenance, paying staff as well as servicing its existing loans, costs which have further weighed down the airline.

“We are going into July with no specific date of opening, we don’t expect to recover this year,” said Jimmy Musoni, the airlines director of global sales and operations.

Over the past few months, the airline has been converting passenger aircrafts to transport cargo in a bid to generate revenues to try and cover for the loss.

RwandAir cargo planes fly twice weekly to Europe and once to China, transporting horticulture products as well as other exports to these markets.

It also transports a wide range of consumer goods imports from China. The government has announced that it will allocate up to Rwf145.1billion to RwandAir in the 2020/21 budget, an increase from Rwf121.8billion in the previous fiscal year, which will come as a lifeline to help keep the airline afloat.

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The funds, according to Musoni, will be used to “help meeting the airline’s capex, financing operations” as the carrier does its best to weather the storms.

The funds are also meant to facilitate the airline to continue its expansion plan, including the acquisition of new planes and opening new routes.

In order to survive and remain operational, RwandAir has taken difficult cost reduction measures, like cutting salaries of its lowest paid employees by eight per cent and by 65 per cent for its top managers.

It also suspended contracts for some of its pilots to further minimise costs.

According to the International Air Transport Association, this year's loss of revenue has cost airlines more than $300billion, while thousands in the air travel industry have lost their jobs.

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