National carrier RwandAir on Wednesday made its maiden commercial flight to Kinshasa, the capital of neighbouring DR Congo, with the local private sector welcoming the development.
The Boeing 737-800NG plane left Kigali at exactly 10:00 AM.
The airline will operate three weekly direct flights from Kigali International Airport to Kinshasa’s N'Djili International Airport.
The latter serves the city of Kinshasa and is the largest of DR Congo’s four international airports.
The route will be operated on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays by a Boeing 737-800NG offering 15 seats in business class and 136 seats in economy class.
Next month, RwandAir plans to operate three additional night flights a week to Kinshasa with a CRJ-900NextGen offering 7 seats in business and 68 in economy class.
The private sector in the two countries is upbeat noting that the new route will reduce costs and time previously taken up.
Congolese businessman Dieu-Merci Munguiko Mahano, who was one of the passengers on the inaugural flight, said that the new route will reduce the time for travelers.
Mahano who is the Director General of Monde d'Abeilles, a honey making enterprise, told The New Times that he was happy about the new route.
"There is a very positive impact since this will allow travelers and especially the business community to travel with more assured security and less time which is good for business. Time is key in business. When you spend an entire day or more, it can be bad for business," he said.
To celebrate this milestone, we invited everyone to take photos with their radiant smiles & this is the results.— RwandAir (@FlyRwandAir) April 17, 2019
How delightful to see everyone excited about our flight to #Kinshasa.#FlyTheDreamOfAfrica #Kigali#MaidenFlight pic.twitter.com/DPzlcjmQpF
The Private Sector Federation Chief Executive Officer Stephen Ruzibiza said: "It's an additional destination with lots of opportunities for Rwandan business operators. The business community traveling is going to explore the potential for business there.”
Yvonne Manzi Makolo, the Chief Executive Officer of the airline in an earlier interview said the new route “will support our growth and increase our footprint in Africa.” It will also 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.
Shamsi Kazimbaya, senior programme officer for PROMUNDO, a global organisation working with men and boys for gender equality, was excited on the new route.
"For me, it's a very big development because I fly to Kinshasa almost one every two months and it was a headache; an overnight flight leaving Kigali around 1 AM and arriving the next day around mid-day."
Shamsi Kazimbaya, senior program officer for PROMUNDO, a global NGO working with men and boys for gender equality, was excited on the new route.
"Now I am excited with this new RwandAir experience. I am actually planning to have a meeting in Kinshasa this afternoon. I just can't imagine we have a direct flight, for less than three hours. Earlier I would go through Bole International in Addis and then connect to Nd'jili," she added.
John Mbala, a Congolese pharmacist said that as a a frequent flyer on the route, RwandAir will save him and other travelers a lot of money.
“I do travel to and from Rwanda regularly and it has been very expensive with Congo Airways from Kinshasa to Goma but this direct flight is less costly. Previously I paid $350 for a one-way ticket but now I have paid $410 for a return ticket,” he said.
John Mbala was one of the first passengers on the inagural flight.
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.
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.