Will RwandAir Be The Subsequent Huge African Airline?

There was some spectacular progress in African aviation lately. Ethiopian Airways and Kenya Airways have seen vital growth, and Rwanda-based RwandAir may very well be on its option to one thing comparable. It’s nonetheless early days, however RwandAir has already seen some strong growth, and with funding from Center Jap big Qatar Airways, the sky may very well be the restrict. It’s definitely an airline to look at over the approaching years.

RwandAir has been the airline of Rwanda since 2002. Photograph: Getty Photographs

State-owned growth of the airline

RwandAir is the state-owned nationwide airline of Rwanda. It adopted on from the earlier nationwide airline, Air Rwanda. This airline was based in 1975 and operated a restricted community of passenger and cargo flights domestically and regionally. Home service ceased in 1994 throughout the Rwandan civil conflict.

Worldwide service was taken over by Uganda-based Alliance Air, with a 49% stake within the newly fashioned Alliance Specific Rwanda. The Rwandan authorities maintained a majority holding.

Air Rwanda 707
Air Rwanda operated one Boeing 707 plane. Photograph: Clinton Groves by way of Wikimedia

Alliance Air ceased operations in October 2000, and South African Airways took over the operation of the Rwandan subsidiary. This continued till 2002 when it handed again to full authorities management and possession as the brand new airline Rwandair Specific. In 2009 it was re-branded as RwandAir.

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Rising its fleet and operations

In its first few years, RwandAir operated only a small home and regional community, with leased and secondhand plane. In response to fleet knowledge obtained from AeroTransport Information Financial institution (ATDB.aero), its early plane included the DC-8s, 737-300, and the Sprint 8.

It launched the Bombardier CRJ200 in 2009, with two plane coming from Lufthansa. They stayed with the airline till 2012 when the airline bought new CRJ900 plane. It additionally caught with Bombardier and added the Q400 (Sprint 8) in 2013.

Bombardier Q400
Because it expanded, Rwandir added a number of new plane, together with the Bombardier Q400 / Sprint 8. Photograph: Bombardier

The airline took on two leased 737-500s in 2010. And in August 2011, it took possession of its first new plane, a 737-800. It added a second new 737-800 later the identical yr and two additional leased new plane in 2016 and 2017. The airline shouldn’t be alone in selecting the 737-800. It’s the most offered of all 737 variants – fashionable with many airways for its compromise on capability and vary.

RwandAir 737-800
RwandAir has bought two new 737-800 plane. Photograph: RwandAir

As of June 2021, the complete airline fleet consists of:

  • A330: one A330-200 and one A330-300
  • Boeing 737: two 737-700 and 4 737-800
  • Bombardier CRJ: two CRJ900ER
  • DHC Sprint 8: two DHC-8-Q400

Two of the 737-800s are leased from Air Lease Company, the 737-700s are leased from AerCap and Dara Aviation. One of many Sprint 8 plane is leased from Montrose World.  RwandAir owns all the opposite plane within the fleet.

RwandAir did have orders for 2 737 MAX and two A330-900 plane. Nevertheless, these orders have been canceled in 2020 because of the slowdown in aviation and uncertainties over supply dates.

RwandAir A330.
RwandAir operates one A330-300. Photograph. Rwandair

And build up its routes

Routes served have expanded together with the fleet. Right this moment, it flies to 26 locations in 40 nations. Regional routes embrace Accra, Cape City, Harare, and Zanzibar. And long-haul, it has operated to Dubai, London, Brussels, Mumbai, and Guangzhou.

Including China to its route map in 2019 was an enormous enhance for the airline. China is Rwanda’s largest exporting accomplice, making up 21.24% of its complete export share worth in 2016. The route operates as a fifth freedom route from Mumbai – a sensible option to develop its worldwide routes.  Pre-pandemic, it had been hailed as a “resounding success.”

This can be a very important route for cargo in addition to passengers. After suspension in the beginning of the pandemic, it was fast to renew it for cargo companies.

RwandAir’s path to China is an extension of its path to Mumbai – a progress technique it plans to make use of for the US as effectively. Picture: GCmap.com

Eyes on routes to the US

The airline has expanded its route map to Africa, the Center East, and Europe however not but the US. Lengthy-haul flights to the US are a significant enhance for any African airline, and RwandAir is keenly planning the beginning of such flights.

In early 2021, the airline submitted a request to the US Division of Transport to function a route from Kigali to New York, probably beginning in December 2021. In February 2021, it was reported that the airline had secured fifth freedom visitors rights to function from Ghana. Nevertheless, it must meet security requirements with FAA Class 1 score earlier than working the route.

Kigali New York man
RwandAir’s deliberate route from Kigali to JFK will open up new markets for the airline. Photograph: GCMap.com

This cease in Accra, Ghana would permit it to serve passengers from two African markets. It could clearly must be operated by one of many airline’s two A330s. There is no such thing as a indication of additional plane acquisition but, so probably different routes must be switched to a narrowbody.

Big potential for African aviation

The airline definitely has regional progress prospects on its aspect because it grows. The African aviation market has lengthy been seen to supply sturdy progress potential. In 2018, Africa accounted for two.8% of complete international Income Passenger Kilometres (RPK) regardless of having virtually 17% of the world’s inhabitants. The typical load issue was 71% – 10% lower than the worldwide common.

In 2018 (pre-pandemic), IATA forecast annual progress of 5.9% over the 20 years for African aviation – the best charge globally. In fact, it will have modified within the present market, however the potential for progress sooner or later stays.

Ethiopian Airlines B787
Ethiopian Airways has grown quickly to be the biggest in Africa – however others may develop available in the market. Photograph: Vincenzo Tempo | Easy Flying

Rwanda has sturdy potential as African economies and aviation enhance. Some discussions have likened it to Singapore. In fact, there are various variations (and RwandAir shouldn’t be abruptly going to develop into a long-haul big like Singapore Airways), however some issues are comparable.

Rwanda is centrally positioned in Africa and will do effectively with connections, simply as Singapore Airways does inside Asia. It is usually a small nation with a number of bigger regional neighbors. And amongst African nations, Rwanda has one of the vital business-friendly environments.

Enhancing financials

Alongside its fleet and route progress, RwandAir has steadily grown passenger numbers and revenues however continues to be struggling to show a revenue.

Passenger quantity (in accordance with ch-aviaiton.com) in 2013 was 408,000. By 2016 this had elevated annually to succeed in 586,000, and in 2017 it lept to 885,000. Income elevated over the identical interval from $91.6 million to $221.6 million.

RwandAir A330
Passenger quantity greater than doubled between 2013 and 2017. Photograph: RwandAir

Revenue has been difficult for the airline to date, although. The airline has solely posted a revenue for one yr as much as 2020 – this was for $2.82 million in 2014. In 2019 it recorded a lack of $24.1million, down considerably from $59.8 million in 2018.

Funding from Qatar Airways

With excessive prices because it grows affecting profitability, an funding may very well be an actual enhance for the airline. Qatar Airways believes strongly in progress within the African market. The airline has added many locations in 2020 and 2021. It additionally sees companions as vital to its progress. It has an interline settlement with Air Côte d’Ivoire in West Africa, and South Africa’s Comair is a future potential choice. And it has a robust curiosity too in Rwanda.

Qatar Airways
Qatar Airways makes use of its numerous fleet to fly to 26 African locations (as of Could 202). Photograph: Getty Photographs

In 2019 it purchased a 60% share in Rwanda’s new Bugesera Worldwide Airport in Kigali. The reported $780 million paid would permit building of a bigger airport, with the second part of growth taking annual passenger capability as much as 14 million. The dimensions highlights effectively the idea within the power of the market.

Kigali International Airport
RwandAir is predicated at Kigali Worldwide Airport (KGL) – with funding, a brand new airport is being constructed. Photograph: RwandAir

The airline might be concerned within the building, possession, and administration of the brand new airport.  Such an infrastructure funding may effectively make sense by itself in a rising sector. However Qatar Airways is eager to go additional and take a stake within the airline as effectively.

Taking a stake in RwandAir

In 2020, it was reported that Qatar Airways was in talks to buy a 49% stake in Rwandair. Consideration might have shifted throughout the pandemic, however the intent has not modified. In response to reporting by ch-aviation.com, the talks have been of their last levels in March 2021.

Talking with Easy Flying in Could 2021, the airline’s CEO, Akbar Al Baker, outlined the significance of his partnership with the central African service and the proposed takeover. He defined his imaginative and prescient for this, saying:

“Africa is probably the most unserved continent, and the airways which might be serving them are taking the passengers to the cleaners. My job is to offer them a world-class airport and accomplice with RwandAir to provide them the form of service we offer in Qatar Airways.”

If flying picks up in Africa later in 2021, RwandAir may very well be effectively positioned to capitalize. Hopefully, its funding from Qatar Airways might be finalized, and routes to the US ought to be on the best way. It could have canceled current plane orders, however it retains a younger fleet, and will at all times develop this as soon as the market improves.

Is RwandAir set as much as reap the benefits of the expansion potential in African aviation? Growth thought companions is frequent in Africa – do you suppose it will work with Qatar Airways? Be at liberty to share your ideas within the feedback. 


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