RwandAir Plans To Fly To The US Starting In August 2018

Filed Under: Other Airlines

Last November I wrote about how RwandAir’s CEO went on record as saying that he wanted the airline to start flying between Kigali and New York in 2019, using an A350.

I have a lot of respect for RwandAir — I think they’re trying to do good things, they seem like a cool little airline, and they have a solid business class product on their two A330s.

However, I figured this was a pipe dream, as the airline has virtually no chance of turning a profit on such a route. This would be a prestige route, rather than a profit driven route. Just look at the pricing on their flights to Dubai and London, even in business class, which is incredibly low.

Now, in many ways the concept of building an airline for the purpose of bringing people to a country isn’t unheard of, even if there’s no direct profit in it for the airline. Just look at what Emirates, Etihad, and Qatar have done to build up Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Doha, respectively.

I expected we wouldn’t hear much more about this route, but it looks like RwandAir is moving forward with their plans. The always reliable @airlineroute notes that RwandAir plans to launch flights to the US in August 2018, pending government approval. While not stated, I suspect that the flight would be to New York, since that’s the city they’ve been talking about from the very beginning.

This likely wouldn’t be a nonstop flight, given that Kigali to New York is over 7,000 miles. Last time we heard about this rumor it involved RwandAir acquiring an A350 to operate the route, though I haven’t heard of them making any progress with that. Their existing A330s don’t have the range to operate the flight nonstop, but then again, even if they had a plane that could, I doubt they’d operate it nonstop.

RwandAir recently added flights to Brussels, though that really just comes in the form of them making a stop in Brussels on their Kigali to London flight (and unfortunately they didn’t really think through the logistics of that very well).

I’m not convinced this will actually ever come to fruition, though I always enjoy staying up to date on what airlines are at least claiming they’re interested in starting new routes. A lot of airlines talk big but don’t actually follow through on plans like this. For example, early last year Oman Air said they wanted to launch flights to the US, though they’ve now definitively said that’s off the table.

Meanwhile we’re still waiting for Garuda Indonesia’s new flight to the US, which is supposed to launch in November 2017, though I haven’t heard much about it lately. As much as I love Garuda Indonesia, this will be a huge money loser, as they’ll operate a one stop flight, meaning they don’t have any competitive advantage over their competition. Vietnam Airlines and Thai Airways have also talked about wanting to start service to the US (in Thai’s case restarting service), but we haven’t heard anything on that front lately.

Do you think RwandAir will follow through with launching US flights?

  1. If there is a nonstop flight from NYC to KGL, I’ll definitely be game as I have always wanted to go to Serengeti and this would be a fairly painless/ direct way to get there. However, if I have to go through Europe/ Middle East, then I might as well find an airline with better product to fly in to get to Africa.

    It would be great if there is a nonstop flight from west coast to DPS/ BKK instead of transferring through HK or Tokyo. You would think there is enough traffic to render such flights. But then again, I guess leisure traveler aren’t very profitable for airlines.

  2. Definitely agree that JFK-KGL is unlikely to turn a profit. Are you still planning to fly them soon? I would be very curious to see what their business class is like compared to South African Airways, EgyptAir or Ethiopian Airlines. RwandAir for sure has better seats but it would be interesting to see the food, lounge and service they provide.

  3. I doubt Kigali airport will be approved to fly direct to the US. The security is not up to US standards.

  4. Lucky …You of course are aware that Rwanda has had the Largest Gold and copper discovery within the last 10 years ?!?

  5. FYI… Bugeseara International Airport is an airport project in Rwanda. The USD818 million airport will be located 25km southeast of Kigali, feature a 4200m runway and have capacity for 1.8 million passengers p/a following the completion of first phase works in Dec-2018. Total construction is expected to be complete by 2019 and will include the runway, cargo terminal and passenger terminal with capacity for 4.5 million passengers p/a. Mota Engil Engenharia e Construcao Africa SA replaced China State Construction Engineering Corporation (CSCEC) as the key contractor for the project. Construction commenced in 2016.

  6. Why not?! Kenya Airways is launching a nonstop flight from NY to Nairobi in October. I believe Rwanda will come through—probably after the new airport is complete. As far as their security, they are just good and far better than some of the countries already flying direct. Go Rwanda!

  7. Front a profitability standpoint a nonstop from Kigali to New York makes no sense. But at least one stop or two will definitely make sense. First Lagos (or Douala), Second Dakar (or Abidjan), if I were the CEO that’s what I will do.

  8. I think New York is over saturated, it would be nice if there was an African airline that flies directly to Orlando and Miami, both two cities heavily dependent and ready for more tourists. Secondly, I would like to see Rwanda Air brings African tourists to the Caribbean.

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