RwandAir moves to expand its network as new aircraft join the fleet


RwandAir will focus on route and fleet expansion in 2013, launching direct services to Accra, Douala and Juba coinciding with the delivery of new Boeing 737-700 aircraft and the introduction of a revised schedule at its congested Kigali hub.

RwandAir has reportedly recorded strong growth in recent years, including a 67% increase in passenger numbers in 2012 and increasing revenue by 60% compared to 2011 without increasing capacity.

The state-owned carrier's CEO John Mirenga said in Jan-2013 that he was "hopeful" the airline will be profitable by 2015, at which time Rwanda's Government may consider selling down part of its holding in the carrier to private investors with a view to a possible stock exchange listing by 2020.

Mr Mirenga expects the airline will handle about 600,000 passengers in 2013, a 50% increase on 2012. The carrier does not expect to increase revenue by the same margin due to the pressure on fares.

The airline said in Nov-2012 it plans to expand its fleet from seven to 17 aircraft over the next five years and commence services to Europe and China in 2015.

  • RwandAir plans to expand its route network and fleet in 2013, with new services to Accra, Douala, and Juba, and the delivery of new Boeing 737-700 aircraft.
  • The airline has experienced strong growth in recent years, with a 67% increase in passenger numbers in 2012 and a 60% increase in revenue.
  • RwandAir aims to become profitable by 2015 and may consider selling part of its government-owned stake to private investors.
  • The airline expects to handle around 600,000 passengers in 2013, a 50% increase from the previous year.
  • RwandAir plans to expand its fleet from seven to 17 aircraft over the next five years and aims to start services to Europe and China in 2015.
  • The airline has codeshare agreements with Brussels Airlines, Ethiopian Airways, and Precision Air, and is finalizing a strategic partnership agreement with Kenya Airways.

RwandAir's network expansion starts in Jun-2013 as new aircraft join the fleet

Network expansion is scheduled to begin on 01-Jun-2013 with the introduction of services between Kigali and Accra, Ghana and Douala, Cameroon. Accra will be served direct five times weekly, Douala four time weekly via Brazzaville and Libreville. Both will be operated with Boeing two-class Boeing 737NG aircraft.

Juba in southern Sudan will be launched from 01-Jul-2013, three times weekly using a Bombardier CRJ900 and will further establish RwandAir as a growing force in Central Africa. Services to Zambia and Zanzibar have also been mooted for 2013.

RwandAir currently operates a network of 13 destinations covering central Africa as well as Johannesburg. The carrier also operates to Dubai, its sole destination outside of the continent. RwandAir's single domestic route is between Kigali and Cyangugu.

RwandAir network summary: as of 11-Apr-2013

RwandAir international capacity (seats) by region: 08-Apr-2013 to 14-Apr-2013

RwandAir route map: as of 11-Apr-2013

In addition RwandAir has codeshare agreements with Brussels Airlines, Ethiopian Airways and Precision Air.

Brussels Airlines operates Brussels-Kigali five times weekly, offering about 1,200 seats using A330-200 aircraft. Ethiopian will recommence daily Addis Ababa-Kigali-Bujumbura in Jun-2013 using a 737-700, while Precision Air offers onward connections within Tanzania for RwandAir's three times weekly Kigali-Kilimanjaro service.

RwandAir's biggest route is Kigali-Nairobi which the airline serves twice daily with 737-500 and CRJ900 aircraft offering about 2,500 weekly seats, marginally more than the second biggest route Kigali-Entebbe.

RwandAir top 10 international routes based on capacity (seats): 08-Apr-2013 to 14-Apr-2013

RwandAir has a monopoly on eight of its 13 routes, including Brazzaville, Libreville, Lagos, Kamembe, Kilimanjaro, Dar es Salaam, Dubai and Mombasa.

The airline competes with Kenya Airways on Kigali-Nairobi. Kenya Airways will nearly triple its capacity on the route from the airline's current low point of about 530 one-way seats from 17-Jun-2013 to about 1,540 seats in Jul-2013.

Kigali to Nairobi capacity by carrier (one-way seats per week): 19-Sep-2011 to 29-Sep-2013

RwandAir and Kenya Airways are finalising a strategic partnership agreement

RwandAir and Kenya Airways announced in Dec-2012 their intent to form a strategic partnership under which the carriers would offer better connectivity to Kenya Airways' onward network at its Nairobi hub.

Both carriers currently offer double daily flights between Kigali and Nairobi. RwandAir also serves Mombasa from Kigali twice per week.

The collaboration promised to extend to cargo, maintenance and flight training. The carriers were still finalising details of the agreement.

Rwanda and Sudan in Mar-2013 signed a five year bilateral cooperation agreement including a bilateral air services agreement aimed at expanding air services between Kigali and Khartoum. There are currently no services between Kigali and Khartoum, according to Innovata.

Ethiopian withdrawal reduces Kigali-Entebbe route to duopoly

Kigali-Entebbe will go from being one of RwandAir's most competitive route to a duopoly with Air Uganda, after Ethiopian withdraws its daily 737-800 service on 15-Jun-2013. Ethiopian operated the route as an extension of its Addis Ababa-Entebbe service. Qatar Airways also pulled off the route in Nov-2012 after just eight months.

Kigali to Entebbe Airport capacity by carrier (one-way seats per week): 19-Sep-2011 to 29-Sep-2013

Kigali-Bujumbura is RwandAir most competitive route

RwandAir competes with four carriers, Kenya Airways, Ethiopian, South African Airways and Air Uganda between Kigali and Bujumbura in Burundi, making it the airline's most competitive route.

Kenya Airways dominates the route offering about 1,300 one-way seats per week as an extension of some of its Nairobi-Kigali service and accounting for 58% of total capacity on the route against RwandAir's 23% share. But Kenya Airways will collapse its offering less than 300 one-way seats per week from 01-Jul-2013, according to Innovata, at which point Ethiopian takes the lead with a near 41% capacity share when it rebuilds its capacity to about 830 seats per week against RwandAir's approximately 500 seats.

Kigali to Bujumbura capacity by carrier (one-way seats per week): 19-Sep-2011 to 29-Sep-2013

Kenya Airways' capacity pull down ends a period during which total capacity on the route peaked at nearly 3,600 one-way seats, roughly tripling capacity over just seven months from Dec-2011.

Kigali to Bujumbura route total capacity by carrier (one-way seats per week): 19-Sep-2011 to 29-Sep-2013

Arrival of Boeing 737-700s expected to improve efficiency

RwandAir expects to take delivery of one Boeing 737-700 in a two-class, 120-seat configuration in Apr-2013 and a second in May-2013. The aircraft will replace two 737-500s and along with the revised schedules are expected to improve network efficiency and grow passenger numbers and revenue.

The carrier took delivery of two new CRJ900 NextGen regional jets in Oct-2012, replacing two smaller CRJ200s. The carrier has options for a further two CRJ900s. It also has a Dash 8-200 turboprop in its fleet.

RwandAir fleet summary: as at 10-Apr-2013

Aircraft In Service In Storage On Order
Boeing 737-50o 2 0 0
Boeing 737-700 0 1 1
Boeing 737-800 2 0 0
Bombardier Dash 8-Q200 1 0 0
Bombardier CRJ900ER 2 0 0
Total 7 1 1

Rwanda-Netherlands cooperation agreement allows RwandAir to operate to Amsterdam

Rwanda signed an aviation treaty with the Netherlands on 06-Feb-2013 formalising a cooperative relationship that has been running for a few years.

KLM operates daily from Amsterdam to Kigali returning via Entebbe offering about 2,000 one-way seats per week. But the deal allows RwandAir to operate to Amsterdam. A commencement date for such services has not been disclosed and RwandAir does not have an aircraft in its current fleet with the range to make the 3,500nm journey direct.

Rwanda national capacity and regional hub aspirations

Rwanda is keen to leverage its central Africa location to establish itself as a hub for trans-Africa traffic. RwandAir CEO John Mirenge told Routes Online that a new schedule "allows us to expand, add new destinations and develops our airline at Kigali airport as a transit hub".

Rwanda's Government reportedly approved, in Feb-2013, an 11.9% increase in the national budget to RWF1.55 trillion (USD2.4 billion) in part to provide additional funding for RwandAir.

Construction of a new national gateway airport, Bugesera International Airport, 25kn south of Kigali is still on the drawing board with expression of interest to construct the USD635 million first phase of the project closing in Apr-2013.

See related article: Rwanda's new airport an attractive proposition as RwandAir takes off

Kigali International Airport is being expanded ahead of possible replacement

Expansion of Kigali International Airport commenced in Sep-2012 to ease congestion at the airport. The RWF12 billion (USD18.9 million) three phase project expand the arrival and departure terminals, to accommodate the increasing number of passengers.

The aprons will also be enlarged to increase aircraft parking space from seven to about 13.

Kigali airport was originally designed to cope with 20,000 passengers per day, but an influx of foreign carriers serving the country has seen that number double to 40,000 per day.

In 2012, South African Airways, Qatar Airways and the Turkish Airlines commenced services to the city, joining RwandAir, Brussels Airlines, KLM, Ethiopian Airlines, Kenya Airways and Air Uganda.

Kigali International Airport capacity (seats) by carrier: 8-Apr-2013 to 14-Apr-2013

Kigali International Airport international capacity (seats) by region: 8-Apr-2013 to 14-Apr-2013

RwandAir has demonstrated consistent and considered growth since being founded in 2002 as the new national carrier.

The carrier has forged sound links with regional carriers in particular Kenya Airways which also owns 41% of Precision Air. Kenya Airways in turn has Dutch national carrier KLM as a cornerstone shareholder which sees significant growth opportunities on the continent.

See related article: Kenya Airways and Ethiopian Airways compete for Nairobi and Addis hub power as Gulf carriers expand

Rwanda has been recognised for its significant economic progress following the 1994 genocide and while the land-locked country still faces many challenges, including a lack of land-based transport access, its national carrier continues to be a central African airline to watch.

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