Rwanda’s national carrier RwandAir has filed an application with the U.S Department of Transportation (DoT) to begin flights between Kigali and New York tapping into the growing market and traffic between the U.S and Rwanda.
In the application submitted on January 18, 2021, Rwandair requested the amendment of its foreign air carrier permit under this docket (DOT-OST- 2017-0049), permitting RwandAir to provide scheduled and charter foreign air transportation for passengers, property (including cargo) and mail to and from the United States.
The move follows five years since the Government of Rwanda designated RwandAir to perform foreign air transportation services between the United States and Rwanda as seen in letters (No. 2619/09.16/03/16 dated October 11, 2016) and diplomatic efforts dating back in the 2016.
In the letter of the airline said it plans to launch the said services from Kigali International Airport (KGL) in Kigali-Rwanda via Kotoka International Airport (ACC) in Accra, Ghana to John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) in New York, U.S.A. in December, 2021.
“RwandAir will mainly utilize its own Airbus A330s type aircraft into the United States, or such other aircraft as it may have or acquired to conduct the proposed operations,” read part of the application letter signed by Yvonne Manzi Makolo Rwandair Chief Executive Officer and Accountable Manager.
The letter was also signed by her Deputy Chief Executive Officer, In Charge of Operations, Silver Munyaneza and Derryck Nuwagaba Manager, Partnerships, Government and Industry Affairs.
The team said that RwandAir is qualified to operate to the United States and has assembled an experienced team of individuals to manage and develop the unique market opportunities associated with the establishment of its U.S. operations.
The route to New York’s JFK, which if approved is expected to start in December this year, will be operated via Accra, Ghana.
The distance from Kigali to Accra is 2,157 miles, while Accra to JFK is just 5,111 miles, allowing Rwanda the possibility of using either wide body or narrow-bodied aircrafts.
According to the aviation news site www.simplyflying.com, both aircrafts can be operated on the journey. By breaking the journey into two legs, RwandAir can attract passengers from two markets, U.S and West Africa, ensuring high load factors, and easily make the journey with the A330-300 with no restrictions.
The site said RwandAir has said it will fly the route using an Airbus A330, however, it did not clarify if it would be the -200 or -300 variant. The former offers more range and allows the aircraft to fly nonstop between Kigali and JFK (7,039 miles) if needed.
While the A330-300 can also fly nonstop, it would be close to the plane’s maximum range and may lead to payload restrictions. Moreover, the -300 offers far more seating capacity and therefore higher revenues for the airline.
Currently, RwandAir operates flights to over 26 Africa, the Middle East, and Europe. Adding the US to its route map would a huge boost to the growing airline. However, with only two wide body aircraft, flying to the US will mean downgrading other routes to narrow bodies.
Benefits of US route
Coming out from a difficult year due to the pandemic, a new route to the US could boost Rwandair’s recovery especially after taking a double blow from United Kingdom and China- that banned direct flights from Kigali due to the increasing figures and concerns around COVID-19.
Rwandair’s incomes for the year ended 30 June 2019 dropped from USD$61,871,055 to USD$26,248,705, while Loss before income tax and government grant slightly changed from USD$172,991,497 (in 2018) to USD$169,396,212 in 2019.
The airline has been heavily investing in new aircraft and expansion of routes, but like most airlines globally, it is feeling the impact of the New Coronavirus pandemic.
The US route will also benefit the airline’s new partnership with Qatar Airways, which owns 49% of the carrier. As traffic in Africa continues growing, many have highlighted the huge growth potential in the region. This new route to the US is just the first of many likely to come up in the next few years.
By: Daniel Sabiiti