RwandAir postpones Juba launch to September


(Posted 02nd August 2013)

RwandAir yesterday evening announced that the anticipated start of their flights to Juba, expected to be operated in conjunction with one of their three daily flights to Entebbe, has been postponed to next month, presently set for 03rd of September.

When commenting on the development, the CEO of RwandAir, John Mirenge, explained that the reason for this postponement is mainly operational. ‘We have come to the decision to postpone after long hours of review and assessment of our operational readiness. Obviously this decision affects the motion already set for this route and we have engaged all departments to look into the best possible alternatives to support passengers before the beginning of September’ said John in a statement received by this correspondent late yesterday evening. He added: ‘For passengers already booked and/or ticketed for the period of August, we have put procedures in place to ensure they are given options that respond to any inconvenience this decision may cause’.

Many passengers, travelling with RwandAir from the airline’s destinations across West Africa, South Africa but also from within Eastern Africa, as well as from Rwanda itself, looked forward to this launch as anticipation built up towards the launch flight. Staff of RwandAir also confirmed that bookings received from travel partners and the sales support teams were impressive. In her statement,the Senior Regional Manager Sales Alice Katiti said: ‘We have opened communications and support channels to ensure our travel partners are informed and supported during this month of August, and that no traveler is inconvenienced in any way’.

During last month’s Routes Africa Conference in Munyonyo / Kampala the issue of fifth freedom rights was touched upon by conference participants, including Mrs. Katiti, when discussing the obstacles African airlines are faced with when opening new routes. It was noted during the session moderated by this correspondent that while the Yamoussoukro Agreement governs aviation in Africa, its implementation has lagged way behind the initially set time frames, often hindering route development at the expense of national protectionism. It was equally observed that other regional aviation protocols, like the one under COMESA and under the EAC, were faced with similar obstacles in the implementation stages. Within the East African Community traffic rights between EAC destinations should be granted but remain subject to national regulatory approvals which are not always forthcoming, while traffic from within a waypoint inside the EAC to a final destination outside the EAC boundaries remain a matter of application by the airlines to the regulators of the countries involved.

It is understood that RwandAir was seeking permission from the Uganda Civil Aviation Authority and the South Sudanese aviation regulators to uplift traffic from Entebbe to Juba and back, but with a decision still pending, this too may have been an added factor in delaying the start of the flights until 03rd September. Sources ruled out any impact on the decision announced today vis a vis recent political developments in South Sudan, where President Kiir just appointed a new streamlined cabinet after two weeks ago in a tabula rasa move dismissing the Vice President and the cabinet to make room for an overhaul at the top. ‘Decisions to fly to a destination are based on many factors and to think that a single political event like reorganizing a government could derail a planned launch is farfetched. In Rwanda there have been changes in cabinet in recent months, so that is a normal political process. In Uganda there have been changes in cabinet too and we are flying there three times a day. Of course do airlines keep an eye on what is happening in a destination but the changes in Juba really have nothing to do with the decision to postpone flights. As the CEO stated, those were purely operational issues’ said a regular source close to RwandAir on condition of anonymity for not being the official spokesperson of the airline. Watch this space for regular and breaking aviation news from Eastern Africa.

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