National carrier RwandAir was on Wednesday welcomed with pomp and fanfare in DR Congo capital, Kinshasa, as it launched its maiden commercial flight there.
The plane left Kigali at exactly 10:01 am and landed at Kinshasa's Ndjili International Airport at 12:12, about two hours later.
Soon after landing, and before passengers disembarked, the plane was welcomed with a splash of a water cannon salute.
Inside the airport's VIP lounge, Abdala Bilenge, the Director General of the DR Congo's Régie des Voies Aérienes (RVA) - the country's civil aviation authority - had another ceremony.
The Congolese official welcomed RwandAir's maiden flight and stressed the importance of having a new comer.
Bilenge, among others, commended the national carrier's management for having chosen to add Kinshasa to its destinations.
— RwandAir (@FlyRwandAir) April 17, 2019
After receiving the Rwandan delegation at the airport, Bilenge assured them that "your passengers will not be disappointed by the quality of services we offer."
He explained that over the past few years, RVA has worked tirelessly to upgrade infrastructure and service delivery.
Bilenge said RwandAir's arrival does not only impact positively on the bilateral trade relations as it is also proof that Kinshasa is keen on implementing the Yamaossoukro accords regarding air transport liberalization.
"This, for us, implies the opening up of skies has become a reality. For us, this is something we are proud of because the arrival of a new airline proves that Nd'jili airport is no longer a place for passengers but a destination."
"In the modern world I think that competition should be the order of the day. The competition allows corporations to improve and get better. We are happy for the competition and you (RwandAir) are most welcome," he said.
RwandAir CEO Yvonne Manzi Makolo reiterated that their new flight will boost business and strengthen commercial ties between the two countries.
Kinshasa – the third-largest urban area in Africa after Lagos and Cairo – now becomes the 23rd RwandAir destination, in Africa, extending RwandAir’s network across the globe to 27 destinations.
In March, officials from both countries signed a bilateral service air agreement allowing RwandAir to fly to Kinshasa.
The Congolese city hosts the country’s major industrial and commercial companies.
Their main airport reportedly receives one million passengers annually.
The DR Congo is a strategic trading partner with Rwanda.
According to central bank data, DR Congo remains the main destination for Rwanda’s informal exports. It accounts for 86.9 per cent of Rwanda’s informal cross border exports.
Later in the afternoon, members of the Congolese private sector hosted their visiting counterparts for lunch. The hosts made it clear that Rwandans should consider DR Congo, and Kinshasa in particular, as their home.