RWANDAIR LAUNCHES ACCRA AMID NEWS OF ABIDJAN COMING SOON
(Posted 16th June 2013)
When Martin Luther King delivered his ‘I had a dream’ speech few of today’s RwandAir managers and staff were born, and yet, it was clearly similar, albeit business focused dreams which inspired the way Rwanda’s national airline grew in recent years. ‘Once upon a time we were dreaming, but when we woke up we set out to make our dreams come true, to see those dreams grow wings and fly across the African skies’ would be a text book answer to describe what happened over the past few years at RwandAir, except that the words did not come from any RwandAir staff but came out of the author’s keyboard, aptly describing however the mood and intent at WB.
Yesterday was the official launch of the new route from Kigali, via Lagos to Accra, and Guest of Honour on board was none other than the Rwandan Minister for Infrastructure Prof. Silas Lwakabamba, who was accompanied by RwandAir’s CEO John Mirenge, the company’s Chairman of the Board of Directors Girma Wake and a number of other government officials, airline executives and invited guests. It was the latter in particular who used the opportunity to meeting Ghanaian counterparts to develop potential business relations, leading among them Charles Muia, Country Manager of Serena Hotels in Rwanda and General Manager of the Kigali Serena Hotel, who spent his time during the cocktails and the dinner to ‘press the flesh, i.e. working travel agents from Accra to give Serena a try next time they were sending clients to Kigali, Kampala, Nairobi or Dar es Salaam.
Everyone present was surprised to learn during the official launch party at the La Palm Royal Beach Hotel in Accra – the hotel did lay on a superb spread of dishes by the way – that the airline was starting up the new destination from the word go with 5 flights a week, all routing via Lagos, i.e. combining the two destinations. Five flights a week are a testament to the bold belief that Ghana would within months produce enough traffic to make this massive investment pay off. It is understood that the Ghanaian civil aviation authorities immediately granted RwandAir’s request for 5th freedom rights while, the Nigerian civil aviation authorities continue to ponder a decision – making one wonder why so often African countries make it hard for their own airlines while ‘throwing the goody bags’ at foreign carriers with a gusto.
Douala has already been named as RwandAir’s next West African destination, to be launched within weeks after the Accra inaugural flight, making it five with the other two being Brazzaville and Librevillee. This expansion of destinations along Africa’s Atlantic coastline serves notice to other airlines flying from Eastern Africa to Western Africa, that RwandAir is going to fight tooth and nail for a big enough market share to make their West African destinations generate the revenues needed to justify such a bold investment and, as referred to earlier on, full 5th freedom rights will go a long way to accomplish that.
CEO John Mirenge during his address to the guests in Accra then in fact dropped a bombshell of sorts when he announced that RwandAir was also looking at starting flights to Abidjan / Cote d’ Ivoire to further increase the airline’s footprint along Africa’s Atlantic coastline.
RwandAir presently operates 2 B737-800NG, 1 B737-700NG with a second such aircraft joining the fleet shortly as two aging B737-500’s are going back to GECAS at the end of their lease contract, and 2 CRJ900NextGen with a further two options which can be converted into firm orders. RwandAir’s plans for West Africa, but also plans to fly to additional destinations in Southern Africa, besides Johannesburg, all point into the direction that the two CRJ900 options will in due course be turned into firm orders, if for nothing else but to be able to actually match new destinations with additional aircraft.
(From left to right Rwanda’s Minister for Infrastructure Prof. Silas Lwakabamba, Ghana’s Deputy Minister for Transport Mrs. Joyce Bawa and RwandAir’s CEO John Mirenge, here seen at Accra’s international airport during a media briefing after the arrival of the inaugural flight)
John Mirenge left no doubt in his formal address on the occasion of the launch of Accra flights that expansion, albeit carefully crafted, will continue towards establishing Kigali as a hub airport. The Rwandan government for sure appears fully committed to back RwandAir’s plans, so stated a few months ago when President Kagame confirmed to this correspondent during one of his monthly media briefings, that his government will support the national airline. Interesting enough this will not just be through backing future finance aircraft purchases but also the construction of the new airport in Bugesera, some 25 kilometres outside the capital Kigali. Minister Lwakabamba also affirmed the same direction and commitment, when asked if the current level of government support would continue in the future.
The projected growth of destinations and fleet, coupled with increasing load factors, will make RwandAir a choice partner when, in three or four years time, a part privatization will be taking shape through a strategic partnership with another airline, which can add value to RwandAir and secure a long term future. At that stage, the new airport is expected to be fully operational and the airline should have taken delivery of at least two B787 Dreamliners, for which firm expressions of interest have been given by RwandAir to Boeing.
Three or four years, in today’s volatile business environment with sharply fluctuating aviation fuel prices, can of course be an eternity, especially for others who lack the foundation of that dream, which RwandAir’s current management and board are turning into measurable reality, driven by a steely will and by the recognition, that only their total commitment and success will do for The Land of a Thousand Hills. Said one of the staff on the trip, on condition of not being named for not being an official spokesperson: ‘Our top management know that they are given a huge responsibility to perform. The success of the past 2 years must take roots and must continue. The entire country is behind our national airline and failure is not an option’.
Interaction with RwandAir’s CEO and senior staff during the two day trip certainly provided new insights and reaffirmed, that Rwanda Incorporated is a deeply rooted reality, where all arms of government, parastatals and the private sector are working towards a common goal, to develop the country and propel it firmly forward into the 21st century. A recently launched Sovereign Fund generated sufficient cash to finance key new infrastructure projects, and RwandAir forms a cornerstone in that equation to connect the landlocked country with not just the region but the outside world.
Fly our Dream to the Heart of Africa – RwandAir’s tag line, will soon be reaching more destinations in Africa and eventually further abroad, carrying the message of the new Rwanda into the world, both flying like the Phoenix which has risen into the skies.