RwandAir Orders Two A330neos (Intended For New York Flights)

One of the airlines I’ve been following pretty closely is RwandAir. They’re quite a small airline, but have been nicely growing their route network. The airline has two Airbus A330s with excellent staggered business class seats, which they offer on routes to Brussels and London, among other destinations.

The most interesting growth aspiration for the airline is that they want to start flying to New York. This was first rumored in November 2016, when RwandAir’s CEO said that he wanted the airline to start flying between Kigali and New York by 2019, using an Airbus A350.

Then last July the airline began the process of requesting the right to operate service to the US, with the intention to start service by August 2018. The DOT granted the airline the permission necessary to start these routes within the past couple of weeks, with the airline projecting a launch date of August 1, 2018.

Obviously I have a lot of questions about this potential new service. On the most basic level, I have no clue how the airline expects to make money on such a route. Making money on longhaul flying to/from Africa can be really tough, as Kenya Airways and South African Airways will gladly attest to. Despite that, Kenya Airways will offer daily flights to New York starting later this year.

Taking the financial feasibility out of the equation, the bigger question is the logistics. RwandAir has two Airbus A330s, and those planes aren’t capable of operating the route nonstop. Furthermore, those planes don’t have much excess capacity, so would they cut service to London and Brussels to make this route happen, or…?

It looks like RwandAir’s plan is now a bit clearer. RwandAir has just signed 12 year lease contracts for two A330neo aircraft. These two planes were initially supposed to go to airberlin, but RwandAir will now take delivery of them in January and February 2019. RwandAir’s CEO now says that these planes will be used to operate flights to New York, tentatively due to launch in June 2019.

So at least now we know that RwandAir will be getting planes that are capable of operating the route, though this also means that it’ll probably only be next year before the airline flies to New York, if at all.

I’ll be curious to see how this continues to evolve…

Comments

  1. Even though they’re capable range wise, it’s still cutting it close isn’t it? Less than 500 miles from being out of range right?

  2. The A330Neo will probably achieve the range with a slightly reduced load.

    @Alex
    Kigali apparently got certified on May 29th this year.

  3. Yes close to their range but could make a technical stop in another African city should there be a weight or headwind penalty since about 40% of the flight will be over the African continent.

  4. Ha ha. I initially mis read this and thought it said Ryanair !!! That would have been even more hilarious

  5. Well I hope they’ll finish the new Kigali Airport before this is implemented, the old one is just atrocious, even in comparison to the other airoports in the region.

  6. In 1972 people originally thought that SQ was crazy investing in the 707 (they even thought SQ was crazy to invest in the 747-300 to fly to London nonstop in 1982). 1972 Singapore had a per capita GDP a bit higher than Rwanda today, but it demonstrates that it can be a smart investment strategy to be ahead of the curve.

    It might seem counterintuitive, but supply can create its own demand. Making your country proximate to the financial center of the world isn’t a harebrained development strategy, and having ET has certainly helped make Ethiopia the most vibrant economy in Africa.

  7. Would love to try this if the route opens up as planned. Do you think there’s an appetite for new additions from any of the alliances? I suspect SkyTeam is unlikely given KenyaAir is right next door and presumably has a lot of route overlap, but what about the other two?

    According to Rwandair’s website:
    “Is the program linked to any other loyalty program of any other airline?
    Not at the moment but in future, yes.”

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