RwandAir today launched its inaugural commercial flight to Benin’s capital of Cotonou (IATA: COO/ICAO: DBBB) operating to the Cardinal Bernadin Gantin International Airport, also known as Cadjehoun International Airport.
This marks the start of a long-planned expansion of destinations across Africa ahead of the delivery of additional aircraft due for delivery over the coming months which includes the addition of Abidjan at the beginning of October.
RwandAir’s hub airport is the recently-expanded and modernized Kigali International Airport, previously known as Kanombe International Airport.
However, this airport will soon be one of two major airports in the vicinity of Kigali, as the Rwandan government yesterday signed a deal to begin construction of the Bugesera International Airport, some 25 kilometers outside the capital.
Signature party for Rwanda was the more recently-established Aviation and Travel Logistics Holdings Limited, a parastatal company tasked to oversee the aviation sector including airports and peripheral businesses.
Construction will reportedly start by mid-2017 with Phase One costing an estimated US$418 million.
It was learned that the model of the airport construction will follow the principles of BOOT, whereby the Portuguese company Mota Engineering and Construction Africa will procure finance, then construct and thereafter operate the airport for an initial 25 years – with a further 15 add-on years as an option, before then transferring the facility to the Rwandan government.
This modus operandi will save the Rwandan government and taxpayer a whopping US$818 million, as Phase Two of the construction will at present prices cost a further US$400 million.
Aviation pundits were quick to point out that the anticipated 28-month construction period of Phase One may be over optimistic, given the notable delays in the completion of the national convention center and adjoining hotel, now open since mid-year and managed by Radisson Blu, as well as similar challenges encountered by the new Kigali Marriott Hotel, both overdue by some 3 years.
“I think the Rwandan government has learned a lesson from those delays and also how to deal with them. Last year, they sacked the Chinese contractors which messed up the convention center completion and then brought in a Turkish contractor. Let’s hope the Portuguese will internalize such challenges and be better prepared. Even though our government will not invest any funds in the airport according to the deal signed, they will still be keen to see the deadlines met and the new airport made operational by [the] end [of] 2019 or early 2020. Which airlines will move to the new airport will have to be seen; that depends on the decision of government. If RwandAir will make it their new hub airport, you need to ask them directly,” commented a regular aviation source from Kigali a few hours ago when passing the information.