RwandAir is a cool little airline that has grown quite a bit the past few years, and that has some aspirational growth plans beyond that. In November 2016, RwandAir’s CEO said that he wanted the airline to start flying between Kigali and New York by 2019, using an Airbus A350.
I think the airline is being highly optimistic if they think they can turn a profit on such a route, and the assumption from many is that this would be a prestige route. Currently RwandAir’s longest route is to London and Brussels, and business class fares there are consistently pretty low. So it makes you wonder how they’d intend to turn a profit on a 7,000+ mile flight.
The other issue is that while the airline wants to eventually get an A350, as of now their longhaul fleet consists of just two A330s, so they don’t have much capacity to grow. That’s why it’s especially puzzling that RwandAir seems to be moving forward with their plans to start flying to the US.
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. That’s now a step closer to being a reality, as RwandAir has received permission from the DOT to operate flights to the US. The East African reports that the permit became effective on May 29, 2018, and the airline intends a launch date of August 1, 2018.
I’m still skeptical about this route on so many levels. For example, this January Rwanda’s transport minister announced that the national airline would launch flights to Guangzhou via Mumbai as of May 2018. That never ended up happening.
Anyway, I guess we’ll find out soon enough if this route ends up happening. At over 7,000 miles I believe this would be beyond the range of the A330, or at a minimum it would really be pushing it if they hope to have a decent payload. That raises the question of whether they’d operate a fifth freedom flight via another country, if they’d lease a plane to operate the route with very little notice, or if this is all just a dream.
Then again, another African airline is moving forward with flights to New York. Kenya Airways will be launching daily flights between Nairobi and New York as of this October with a 787, which also seemed like it would never happen for a struggling airline.
If RwandAir is serious, they could launch flights to the US before Kenya Airways does.
So, anyone want to place their bet as to whether RwandAir will start flying to the US as of this year?
(Tip of the hat to @MeenzMev)