Where next Rwandair?

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(eTN) – As Rwandair’s (WB) second B737-800 is due to go on the production line very soon and will come to Rwanda during the second half of October, speculation is growing over the next routes RwandAir

(eTN) – As Rwandair’s (WB) second B737-800 is due to go on the production line very soon and will come to Rwanda during the second half of October, speculation is growing over the next routes RwandAir will introduce, now that their fleet is growing. While destination Kinshasa is dogged by a number of issues leaving it off the map for now, WB is already flying to Brazzaville and Libreville. It is thought that a further expansion into West Africa is a logical progression and Lagos in particular is seen as an obvious choice for RwandAir, considering the close political ties and the sheer size of the Nigerian travel market, leave alone the business links both countries are eyeing. A chance meeting in Kigali some weeks ago with a “long lost” Skal friend from Lagos also added to this speculation, as he is already busy in the GSA market, representing other quality airlines in Nigeria, and why else would he have otherwise come all this way to witness the arrival of the first B737-800 Boeing Sky Interior in Kigali if not to combine fact finding with business.

In the East African region there are not many gaps in RwandAir’s network, as the airline is already covering Bujumbura, Nairobi, Mombasa, Kilimanjaro, Dar es Salaam, and Entebbe. The border region with the Congo DR is now connected with daily domestic flights although a growing number of passengers is reportedly crossing the border from Congo DR to fly with RwandAir, and not just to Kigali but beyond into the network, clearly being fearful of the appalling reputation of some of Congo’s own airlines. On these routes there is still a lot of potential to increase traffic and it is understood that the Eastern Congolese market is being worked very intensely to exploit RwandAir’s good name and easy connections.

Juba is still not spoken for and while Addis Ababa is connected to Kigali by Ethiopian, the seat of the African Union is not yet an own destination for RwandAir. Down south talk has been about linking up with Lusaka, maybe in connection with the Johannesburg flights, and here, traffic rights between LUS and JNB would certainly be helpful to increase loadfactors and make the route even more profitable.

Added frequencies are being talked about, too, and already the B737-500 has been deployed on the high demand flights to Tanzania and Nairobi, upping capacity considerably from the previously used CRJ200. Subject to the progression of load factors for the Dubai flights, presently three times a week with full traffic rights via Mombasa, this route could see a fourth flight come online before too long, but it is beyond Dubai that speculation persists about a service to Mumbai.

Meanwhile though, RwandAir has put a smart set of codeshare agreements in place, with Brussels Airlines, with KLM, and when Turkish commences operations, with THY, too, opening up a range of new destinations for travel by business and holiday traffic to Rwanda, as well as from Rwanda.

While the airline is still committed to exploring partnerships, the focus for now seems on the implementation of the new vision for the airline and to grow, turn profitable and only then will the search for a strategic investor most likely resume, by this correspondent’s assessment not before 2015. Of course, at that time RwandAir could be a shining gem many would want to put into their crown, with much higher value and a much greater ability to put Rwandan interests first and foremost, when mapping out the future.

RwandAir, a rising star in the skies above Eastern Africa and well worth watching.