RWANDAIR CEO CONFIRMS MID YEAR SWITCH FROM THE B737-500 TO THE B737-700
RwandAir’s Ceo John Mirenge, while meeting a group of journalists from leading East African media houses yesterday, confirmed that the leases for two B737-500 aircraft with GECAS are due to expire by mid of this year and will not be renewed. It was clear from his comments, that the two aircraft served their purpose well over the past nearly 3 years but the airline now needs a slightly larger and more fuel efficient replacements to cater for the ongoing growth RwandAir is experiencing from across all their markets. With passenger numbers in 2012 reaching a record 338.589, he said he expects the trend to continue and that the airline was looking at substantially more passengers for 2013 again. The record number represents a 204% increase between 2010 and 2012 and a 67% increase from 2011 to 2012. The rise from 2011 over 2010 is being attributed to the acquisition of two new Boeing 737-800 and a subsequent increase in available capacity while the 67 % increase in 2012 over 2011 is seen as growth from stimulated demand as well as making the airline’s schedules and connectivity more user friendly.
‘By re-designing schedules, focusing on connectivity, improvements in sales & marketing and by offering additional points to sell via the hub Kigali, RwandAir has now become a serious player in the region’, added Bert van der Stege, RwandAir’s Commercial Director, who was also present at the meeting with the media group.
John Mirenge then in response to a question posed by this correspondent said: ‘We will be leasing two Boeing B737-700NG aircraft from ILFC which will help us to more efficiently serve our network. They will not be brand new but new enough with just a few years of service’. He also all but confirmed that in 2014 at least two additional aircraft will be joining the fleet, very likely the options for two more CRJ900NG being converted into firm orders. This would bring the number of aircraft owned or leased to 9 overall by then, being both a blessing as well as an added challenge for Rwandair at their present home hub at Kanombe International Airport.
While major expansion work is ongoing to enlarge the departure lounge, add more gates and even increase the check-in areas, it is clear that these can only be stop gap measures until the new Bugesera International Airport is finally coming on line, probably by 2016 at the very earliest but more likely in 2017. Ground breaking is expected later this year, according to several sources spoken to in Kigali and when ready the new airport, while further away from the city than Kanombe, will provide state of the art facilities and enough space for growth, allowing RwandAir to reach their strategic goal of up to 18 aircraft by 2021.
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