Oops: RwandAir Is Flying To Brussels, But Can Only Sell You A One-Way Ticket

Filed Under: Other Airlines

I’ve taken an interest in RwandAir over the past few months, which seems like a cool airline that’s doing great things. They have some nice-looking A330s that they fly to Dubai and London, and I’m hoping to fly with them soon, in conjunction with a visit to Rwanda.

A couple of weeks ago I posted about how the airline was planning on launching flights to Brussels. They advertised it as “3 flights a week starting 14th July 2017.” That surprised me a bit given how small their fleet is, as I didn’t think they had the aircraft to operate the route. That also seemed like a really last minute decision for launching a new route.

After looking at the schedule for the flight it made more sense. As it turned out, RwandAir was just adding a stop in Brussels for their existing flight between Kigali and London. In other words, the plane would fly from Kigali to Brussels to London to Kigali with the following schedule:

WB700 Kigali to Brussels departing 10:30AM arriving 7:00PM
WB700 Brussels to London Gatwick departing 8:10PM arriving 8:25PM
WB700 London Gatwick to Kigali departing 9:50PM arriving 7:30AM (+1 day)

Well, RwandAir’s London flight is operating via Brussels as of today. There’s only one slight problem — RwandAir can’t carry passengers from Brussels back to Kigali via London. Why? Because RwandAir didn’t do their homework.

I think most of us assume that when an airline announces a new route that they’ve done their due diligence, have approval for the route, etc. So this situation is especially puzzling. Sean M, who is one of the most knowledgable commenters here, wrote this in response to the original post, back when RwandAir first announced the route:

Rwandair has not thought through the logistics of this flight completely.

Rwandan passengers (and many other nationals from countries that constitute the primary markets for this flight) flying BRU-LGW-KGL will require UK Direct Airside Transit Visas to fly on this flight, even if they remain on board the aircraft at Gatwick.

The UK does not accept standard “C” class Schengen visas as exemption documents from the DATV requirements. They require a class “D” visa from an EEA state or else a class “C” visa issued under ADS scheme for the exemption. Therefore your average Rwandan/Ugandan/Kenyan/Tanzanian tourist/businessman would also need to apply for a UK visa just to fly on this flight.

It seems like RwandAir may want to hire Sean, because that’s exactly what happened. Reader Bart points to a story about the issues that RwandAir is having with the route:

  • RwandAir is operating the Kigali to Brussels to London to Kigali route as of today
  • However, due to the issues associated with having passengers transit the UK enroute from Brussels to Kigali, they’re not letting passengers book the flight from Brussels to Kigali; so you can book a ticket from Kigali to Brussels and from London to Kigali, but you can’t book a ticket from Brussels to Kigali
  • Instead, those inquiring about a reservation from Brussels to Kigali will be placed on the Brussels Airlines codeshare for the southbound sector, which doesn’t go through the UK

RwandAir is apparently working with the UK government to find a solution, though I suspect it might not be that easy.

I’ll be curious to see if RwandAir maintains their stop in Brussels, since I can’t imagine the route adds much value if it can only be sold one way. It seems like the only other option would be for them to add a stop in Brussels on the way back as well, unless that would add yet another visa issue that I’m not aware of.

  1. Can passengers book Brussels-London?

    Also, why can’t they just add a Brussels stop both ways?

  2. Ultimately it’s always the passengers’ responsibility to have valid documents
    However if they make it clear at the time of booking it shouldn’t be an issue
    But commercially it’s very badly thought out
    They could simply avoid this by adding London as a tag i.e. KGL-BRU-LGW-BRU-KGL

  3. Considering Belgium has deep ties with Rwanda compared to the UK. They should drop the LGW tag for now.

    I read the most AWFUL review of this airline, so Ben prepare yourself!!

  4. @Marija Somebody always ruins it for the rest of us thrillseekers. It’s why my country is overrun with safety rails, etc.
    I’d rather live before I die.

  5. While this was obviously poor planning on the airline’s part, it does seem ridiculous that if you have the right passport/visa to transit the U.K., you still cannot purchase a round trip ticket.

  6. I experienced a RwandAir hiccup recently. They were marketing their new service from Harare to Kigali as “non-stop” and it was displaying on Google and Vayama as such. It wasn’t until I boarded that I found out the flight was actually “direct”. It stops in Lusaka first. The error has since been corrected, but I was not amused at the time.

  7. Shows poor planning
    Next they will start a new route to the US via Canada where Canada require non US citizens transiting through a visa!

  8. you didn’t need a brainer to explain you this, every passenger flying to or thru England must have visa if he is a national of a country which have to have british visas.

  9. It’s even more inconsistent, if you look at the GDS data. While for a majority of the flights, BRU-KIG is zeroed out, on many other dates there is some limited availability … Of course, they may still refuse to issue a ticket.

    Also, based on my experience, a substantial number of the passengers also hold European passports. And for them it is not a problem transiting through LGW at all.

  10. They are there to make it difficult for Rwandian to have their own plane !!! Making it difficult for the Airline will soon bankrupt the investors or make them step back .

    PR Assassassinations .

  11. Don’t international passengers transfer through Heathrow regularly without needing a visa? Does Gatwick have different requirements? I’m confused. I’ve done FRA-LHR-YOW with no problems and I’m an Egyptian citizen.

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