Despite tight conditions in the airline industry, Rwanda’s national airline, RwandAir, is expanding rapidly into Africa, with Canadian-manufactured Bombardier as its chosen aircraft.
RwandAir, which flew to six African destinations in 2008, now serves 15 destinations, and will add another three destinations to its coterie by the end of this year, including Accra, in Ghana, and Abidjan, in Côte d’Ivoire.
The development dovetails with a new airport being built in Kigali, which will help to relieve the pressure on Kigali International Airport, which has seen a steep increase in passenger traffic in recent years.
The airline, which began operating as the new national carrier in December 2002, has big ambitions. Its CEO, John Mirenge, wants Kigali to become a regional hub.
“Rwanda is one of the fastest-growing economies in Africa, with double digits over the past few years. We see ourselves as a key player. We’re hoping to grow particularly through sharpening our connections between East and West Africa.”
RwandAir flies to Johannesburg and Dubai three times a week and serves mostly East African capital cities, including Dar es Salaam, in Tanzania, Nairobi and Mombasa, in Kenya.
Mirenge has also chosen to expand his fleet with aircraft from Bombardier.
“In today’s aviation environment, costs are everything and we wanted a cost-efficient product.”
Bombardier, which is increasing its foothold in Africa with aircraft carrying between 30 and 150 passengers, says it has a 20% lower fuel burn than its competitors and improved fuel efficiency.
“Our aircraft operate very well in very hot environments without lessening the performance,” says Bombardier VP for sales for the Middle East and Africa, Raphael Haddad.
Bombardier expects to double its fleet in Africa over the next three to five years. Currently, 60 operators fly about 200 Bombardier aircraft on the continent.
Bombardier’s brand new C-Series commercial jet will take its maiden flight at the end of June. Haddad sees much potential for the narrow-body, medium-range jet in Africa.
South African Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe has told the International Air Transport Association (IATA) annual general meeting in Cape Town this week that innovation in the aviation industry carried catalytic opportunities for growth in Africa.
“Improvement of Africa’s aviation is amongst the most important drivers of Africa’s development through trade between Africa and the rest of the world, driven in the main by the trade in agricultural and perishable goods, with the bulk of its commodity trade being transported by sea.
“Consequently, it is hard to imagine that we can transform Africa’s structural growth without a concomitant improvement in Africa’s aviation industry,” he said.
Rwanda’s positive outlook is refreshing in a tough economic climate for African airlines.
In its global outlook released this week, IATA said African airlines continued to be fragile, with passenger loads below 70% and profits of just $100-million for 2012.
IATA said the region’s airlines continued to face high operating costs, especially for fuel, which is on average 21% more costly than in other parts of the world.
Source:Creamer Media’ Engineering News