RwandAir’s New York Flight Will Operate Via Accra, Ghana

It sure is an aspirational time for many African airlines.

In late October Kenya Airways launched daily nonstop flights between Nairobi and New York. The daily route didn’t last long, and the flight is already down to 5x weekly frequencies (and I’d guess we’ll see further reductions soon).

But arguably an even more aspirational airline right now is RwandAir, which is significantly smaller, and also has hopes of flying to New York.

RwandAir’s New York route

RwandAir’s desire to fly to New York was first revealed in November 2016, when RwandAir’s CEO (at the time) 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 of starting service by August 2018. The DOT granted the airline the necessary permission.

However, the route was delayed a bit, as the airline worked on obtaining the planes needed to operate the route. This past June, RwandAir signed 12 year leases for two A330neo aircraft, which they intend to use for the New York route. The airline is expected to take delivery of these planes in early 2019, and as of the summer said that the route should launch by June 2019.

View approaching Kigali

Well, there’s now yet another update regarding this route.

RwandAir now intends to fly to New York via Accra

RwandAir’s CEO has now revealed that the airline isn’t in fact planning on flying nonstop from Kigali to New York, as reported by The East African. Instead, RwandAir intends to fly from Kigali to Accra to New York, so that they can serve both East and West Africa with the route.

RwandAir’s CEO has said that while they’re still aiming for a June 2019 launch, it may be pushed back a little:

“We are still working around the June 2019 timeline, but it might be pushed back. It’s going to be to New York, depending on which airport we get suitable slots. The FAA finalised the technical review a few weeks ago, so we are waiting for all the other processes to be completed.”

The airline still plans to use an A330neo for the route, featuring business class, premium economy, and economy.

RwandAir A330 business class

On the New York to Accra route, RwandAir will be going head-to-head with Delta, which also operates the route, with a Boeing 767-300.

Kigali Airport

Bottom line

It seems like RwandAir sure is serious about this New York flight, and like it will in fact launch. Routing via Accra probably makes sense given what a “long and thin” route this otherwise is.

While RwandAir has connectivity to other points in East Africa, they’re one of the smaller “big” players in Africa, so they do ultimately have fairly limited connectivity. They haven’t scaled their route network like Ethiopian has, for example.

I flew RwandAir in business class recently and had a mostly pleasant experience, though the food was lacking.

RwandAir’s business class catering

I’ll be curious to see how many frequencies RwandAir tries to offer, and how long it lasts.

I really want to go to Rwanda to go gorilla trekking, and One&Only has recently opened two incredible-looking properties there.

What do you make of RwandAir’s New York aspirations?


  1. Not sure what’s the reasoning behind so many obscure airlines deciding to open a route to New York lately. The economic viability is clearly not justified.

  2. @chub

    It’s more likely Delta – an airline that shrinks in the face of head-to-head competition – will cancel their service to Accra.

  3. Things are really looking up in Ghana what with this service to New York and Global Ghana Airway’s service to Chicago! Pretty soon Accra will be a West African hub much like Addis Ababa is in the East.


  4. @Lucky – if you want to go see the gorillas, the permit is half the price in Uganda compared to Rwanda ($800 vs $1600). Permits are limited each day and I find if you want to do this you need to book it like a year in advance!

    That one n only looks amazing though.

  5. I’ve been to Rwanda, great country with a lot to see. But, I can’t think of anything that would make me less want to revisit than that terrible video (where the videographer fell in love with the slo-mo feature).

  6. For all those who doubt that this can work, they should know that Rwanda is one of the fastest growing economies in the world (on par with China) in perhaps the fastest growing region in the world. Ethiopia is now growing faster than China.

    Makes me think of when SQ bought a 747 to fly to London, and people laughed because who would possibly need or even want to fly between those places!

  7. People laughed when Emirates started up with just a few smaller aircraft. Who’s laughing now!
    Africa is a fast developing untapped market. Just wish somebody would consider flying from Australia to other destinations in Africa apart from Johannesburg

  8. Accra is a sizeable business travel market served by many full service airlines (AF, KL, LH, BA, EK, KE, etc…). However, I dont believe there is a direct flight from anywhere in the US at the moment. So this seems like a smart move.

    I fly Europe to Accra in J few times a year and just found out that Air Italy also flies there from Milan (with a stop in Nairobi). Maybe I will check out Air Italy’s business class the next time I go.

  9. Ghana is a really interesting tourist destination. Heard a lot of bad stuff about it before I went (lots of crime, unfriendly people, etc.). NONE of this was true, so I am quite happy for the Americans who can travel there now.

    Now, I am quite concerned about people flying more and more. Simply because of the environmental problems that comes with the aviation industry, but that is probably another discussion…

  10. @chub

    And gave-up SFO – NRT, which had been successfully flown for decades by Northwest, because they didn’t want to compete with United!

  11. While I think the expansion of African airlines is great and it provides greater non-stop connectivity to the continent, I recently was in Kigali and I wonder whether the airport can handle all the extra flights. I was waiting for my flight to Kenya, the flight to Brussels was being boarded, and two additional intra-African flights were being boarded and the entire waiting area was completely full (in fact, it was overcrowded). Considering American security usually want separate waiting areas and additional screenings, it’s hard to imagine that given the current situation at Kigali airport

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