One of Africa’s youngest airlines, RwandAir, took to the skies and flew into Harare this week, signifying its aggressive expansion drive.
By Taurai Mangudhla
RwandAir, established 15 years ago, made its maiden Kigali-Harare flight on Wednesday amid pomp and fanfare.
The milestone was a stark contract to its host; Air Zimbabwe, once a thriving airline at Independence in 1980 with 18 planes. While RwandAir is expanding fast, AirZim is shrinking and now faces the prospect of liquidation to start afresh from the ashes of failure.
Years of extended mismanagement have seen its fleet reduce to only four, Modern Ark: MA60, Boeing: B737-200 Advanced, B767-200ER and an Airbus A320-200.
RwandAir’s fleet of 11 aircraft is made up of two wide body planes (A330-300 and A330-200), three Boeing 737-800, two Boeing 737-700, two Bombadier CRJ-900 and two Bombadier Q400. Another modern aircraft is expected to be added to the family soon and allow the airline to pursue its expansion strategy effectively.
Recently, the airline introduced Kigali-Mumbai flights as it expands its wings across the globe.
Rwanda’s flag carrier RwandAir targets an average 60% load factor on its KigaliHarare flights, management has said.
At an average 60% load factor, the airline will carry about 16 500 passengers on the route, RwandAir general manager commercial Mikael Gobena said on the side lines of a reception of the inaugural flight to Harare on Wednesday.
“We are looking at about 60% load factor, we fly the (Bombadier CRJ-900) CRJ here that would be about 45 passengers per flight multiplied by 365 days,” Gobena said.
“The main driver to achieve the 60% load factor is the service, affordable prices joined together.”
“The source of passengers is traders, businessmen, and tourists not only from Harare, but also into Harare so we will have these tourists and investors. There are a number of sources, but we expect traders to drive.”
Gobena said RwandAir currently flies to 20 destinations in West, East, Central and Southern Africa and plans to introduce new routes to Europe and the United States. Next week, Rwandese civil aviation officials will meet their Zambian counterparts with a view to conclude negotiations for clauses to start picking passengers in Zambia and Zimbabwe.
The daily flights should be operational by end of May.
RwandAir’s flights to Harare come as Ethiopian Airlines last week introduced flights between Addis Ababa and Harare.
Reports also show that Kenya Airways plans to introduce three weekly flights between Nairobi and Victoria Falls by end of next month, while Airlink will later launch flights between Cape Town and Victoria Falls.