With the arrival of a second brand new B737-800 by the end of next month RwandAir’s fleet will have grown to 7 aircraft comprising a Bombardier Dash 8, two CRJ200’s, two B737-500’s and their latest acquisitions being two B737-800’s.
The new “birds” will be used to operate 4 current weekly frequencies between Kigali and Johannesburg and three flights between Kigali and Dubai. RwandAir only recently ‘upped’ their flights between Kigali and Johannesburg from three to four, before it was announced elsewhere that South African Airways was planning to return to the route with three flights of their own, which would offer daily connections between South Africa and Rwanda.
At the same time RwandAir added a third flight between Kigali and Nairobi, and there is now talk of adding more frequencies in the future, a sound choice considering that traffic volumes have been growing that the airline now has the ‘right-sized’ aircraft available to operate peak period flights with the larger Boeings while off peak departures can use the CRJ200, which offers 50 seats.
A second flights between Kigali and Entebbe is also subject to speculation amongst travel agents. RwandAir used to operate two daily departures before signing a code share agreement with Air Uganda, under which the latter was to operate early morning departures while RwandAir would continue with their evening flights. However, presently Air Uganda’s departure time has moved into the mid day, making the intended ‘day trips’ to Kigali difficult to achieve for business travelers, and ‘the grapevine’ is talking of RwandAir possibly considering restoring their own second flight to offer this opportunity. However, as a second flight would likely start off with a smaller turboprop, instead of the larger CRJ200 used on the route by both RwandAir and U7, this will pose an operational challenge as the single turboprop, a Bombardier Dash 8, is now serving the rapidly increasing domestic flight schedule as well as flying to Bujumbura and operating on off peak days to Entebbe. And this is where the added component of fleet expansion comes into play. The Dash 8 offers 37 seats and as traffic grows on domestic routes, partly fed by cross border travelers from Eastern Congo, there is very likely a need to add more larger turboprops to RwandAir fleet. Obvious choices here would be Bombardier’s larger Q 400 or the even larger ATR 72’s, several of which are already successfully flying in the region.
Whichever way the airline will eventually go, time will tell but one thing is certain, that the vision of RwandAir to connect landlocked Rwanda with her neighbors and to more distant destinations will continue to unfold, making RwandAir the fourth largest airline in the wider Eastern African region after Ethiopian, Kenya Airways and Precision Air.