Taking a look at RwandAir’s Kenya operations


(Posted 20th June 2017)

Given the choice of airlines how to get to Nairobi earlier in the month to attend the 3rd Green Tourism Summit, did I opt for RwandAir which flies under fifth freedom rights from Kigali via Entebbe to Nairobi, the Kenyan capital.
A quick look at the flight schedule showed a total of four daily flights between Kigali and Nairobi, two of them via Entebbe.
Notably was it Nairobi which was RwandAir’s first destination way back in 2002 and today is the airline ranked as 4th at Jomo Kenyatta International airport among foreign carriers vis a vis passenger uplift.
Flight are operated, depending on traffic days and passenger loads, on either B737-700/800NG, the Bombardier CRJ900NG or occasionally by a Bombardier Q400NG.
But Nairobi is just one of the two airports served by RwandAir in Kenya, the second being Mombasa. Here again has the airline fifth freedom rights, connecting Mombasa with Dubai where the flight then terminates before returning again via Mombasa to Kigali. These services, operated by Airbus A330 aircraft, take place on the outbound routing every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday while the return flights then come through on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays.
This provides for perfect short visit travel packages to the city which never sleeps, aka Dubai while in turn passengers from the UAE, seeking to escape the summer heat which can reach up to 50C, have easy access to the beaches of Mombasa, all in wide body comfort. Of course can they also opt to enjoy the relatively cool climes of Rwanda or fly on with RwandAir to other parts of the region for safaris or adventure experiences.
My flight from Entebbe left Uganda ahead of the scheduled ETD of 02.40 hrs local time, got into Nairobi in this particular case almost half an hour early, i.e. at 03.30 hrs instead of the ETA of 04.00 hrs, which, after collecting my baggage and finding my driver saw me reach my hotel at a quarter to five in the morning.
It allowed me to settle down, unpack and then be ready in time for a 7 a.m. meeting, perfect for an early bird like myself BUT, not apparently for all passengers on this service.
I recognized a few fellow passengers on board from both Kigali and Entebbe and for them the wee hours of the night were far from perfect.
One passenger from Entebbe in fact bemoaned the fact that the recently changed departure times were giving him worries at both ends, having to get to Entebbe at 1 a.m. in the morning and reaching Nairobi at 4 a.m., clearly concerned about being on the roads at such hours.
The previous departure times were certainly more user friendly for passengers out of Entebbe and the changes may well have affected passenger numbers on the route for RwandAir, given the relatively few travelers who boarded at EBB compared to the previous daylight flight.
Still has the airline carved out a significant number of passengers flying across Africa and beyond with uplift numbers last year reportedly reaching some 700.000, a number expected to grow as operations to Mumbai, London and soon Brussels will take root.
RwandAir will operate to the European capital three times a week before then completing the journey at London Gatwick, every Wednesday, Thursday and Friday before then returning nonstop to Kigali.
Connectivity out of Eastern Africa needs to be looked at though given the lengthy connection times in Kigali but the arrival in May of another Boeing B737-800NG has boosted the fleet to 12 and will no doubt help to finetune connection times in and out of Kigali.
The flight experience I had was pleasant both ways. Each flight closed the doors early when all passengers were on board and notably got permission to leave early from Air Traffic Control, no problem of course on the outbound flight from Entebbe as traffic was ‘thin‘ in the airways but equally so when returning to Uganda just before noon out of Nairobi.
Given that the airline has one of the youngest fleets in Africa, the excellent inflight service, their on time departure record and the friendliness of ground staff and crew has WB become a credible option to fly with, in our Eastern African region and also across the continent and beyond to India, the Gulf and now Europe.
Flying the Dream has become a reality!