Juba welcomes RwandAir’s inaugural flight with traditional water cannon salute


(Posted 13th October 2013)

We are not the kind of airline which is here today and gone tomorrow, RwandAir is here to stay’ said John Mirenge, CEO of RwandAir when he addressed the invited guests at Juba’s Transit Hotel, comprising government and business leaders including key staff from the South Sudan Civil Aviation Authority, members of the diplomatic corps, representatives of NGO’s and literally all the travel agency managers and owners doing business in Juba and other parts of South Sudan.

The celebratory flight had touched down just before noon at Juba International Airport and was then greeted by the traditional water cannon salute by the airport’s fire brigade, while dozens of airport staff had lined up with their cameras to capture this historic event.

On board the B737-800NG, ordinarily the route is served with one of RwandAir’s new CRJ900NextGen aircraft, was a delegation representing the Rwandan government, members of the board of RwandAir and business leaders seeking to establish ties with their South Sudanese counterparts to explore investment and trade opportunities. Also on board were invited media representatives, besides dozens of ‘ordinary passengers’ who flew to and later in the day from Juba, filling the B737 to nearly the last seat.

Prof. Silas Lwakabamba, Rwanda’s Minister for Infrastructure, officiated on behalf of the Rwandan government and the warmth of the speeches and reaction by those in the room were evidence that the two countries indeed have developed strong ties since South Sudan’s independence in July 2011.

RwandAir’s launch fares, offering travel to for instance Nairobi and Entebbe for as low as 199 US Dollars return, taxes included, have swept the market like by storm one travel agent said when asked how the new flights were taken up among Juba resident. ‘These fares have cut the cost of travel to Nairobi by more than half compared to the cheapest other option out of Juba. So my clients are ready to fly via Kigali to save a lot of money. Those who have travelled have confirmed that the service on board is good and that transit in Kigali has no problems. These fares will be in place until middle of November and I want to sell as much as I can. Working with the RwandAir GSA has been easy going so far. I hope the fares afterwards will remain competitive because it has made travel to South Africa or to West Africa very affordable’ said a travel agency manager before suddenly disappearing into the crowd when Rwanda’ s traditional dancers started their thrilling performance, without leaving her name.

In a delightful development was Miss World South Sudan 2013, Modong Manuela Mogga invited to the function, who had only recently made it into the top 10 of the Miss World contest in Bali / Indonesia where she was also crowned ‘most beautiful contestant’ from among the world’s beauties. She drew the prizes RwandAir had brought along offering tickets to various destinations across their network and the shrill jubilation sounds from the winner’s tables told the story of excitement and appreciation.

(A beaming John Mirenge at the Juba function)

While travelling on board with John Mirenge, CEO of RwandAir, opportunity arose to also talk about the immediate future plans of RwandAir. He confirmed that the delivery of the Bombardier Q400 was expected in March 2014, at which stage the present Dash 8 will be retired from service, finally offering both business class and economy class services even on domestic flights to Kamembe or the other regional destinations the brand new turboprop aircraft will be deployed to. John Mirenge also confirmed that substantial progress has been made in bilateral talks with Cote` d’ Ivoire about traffic rights and plans to launch flights to Abidjan sometime in 2014 were therefore advancing well if not beyond expectations.

RwandAir presently flies three times a week between Kigali and Juba but has according to their CEO a keen interest to add more services, subject to passenger loads justifying the addition of a fourth weekly flight. Happy Landings it was yesterday on the inaugural flight, both ways and Happy Landings indeed to crews and passengers on this route.

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