Why RwandAir’s switch to Heathrow is a big deal

A RwandAir plane before take-off at Kigali International Airport. / Photo: File.

Following the resumption of commercial air travel after months of lockdown due to Covid-19, the national carrier, RwandAir switched to Heathrow Airport from Gatwick Airport for its London route.

The management of Heathrow itself last week announced the national carrier as a new operator at the airport in a tweet.

 

“We’re delighted to welcome the newest member of our airline family, @FlyRwandAir…Flights will operate twice-weekly, reconnecting the UK with Rwanda for passengers and critical cargo operations,” the airport announced on its Twitter handle.

 

The change of airports is expected to improve connectivity for passengers on RwandAir considering that Heathrow serves more international airlines from across the world, according to officials.

 

Heathrow Airport, which is counted among the 10 busiest airports in the world, is used by over 90 airlines including major airlines flying to over 185 destinations in over 90 countries.

This is in comparison to Gatwick Airport which serves over 45 airlines.

The higher number of airlines at Heathrow means that RwandAir passengers will have more convenient connectivity to any destination across the world, officials say.

As UK’s biggest airport and among the busiest in the world, RwandAir will be better positioned and ideal exposure be a choice for passengers seeking to connect to any of its destinations.

Frequent fliers say that Heathrow is the most accessible airport in London consequently more convenient for passengers.

RwandAir Chief Executive Yvonne Makolo told The New Times that at Heathrow, they will have better slots, better connectivity as it serves more international airlines.

“Which is very good for our passengers because it connects them to the Europe, North American countries, among other countries they are going. Which was not necessarily the case while at Gatwick because of the slots we had,” Makolo said.

That will also serve passengers bound on other RwandAir destinations allowing them better connections.

The development also puts RwandAir in an ideal position to be more competitive as it will be more advantageous for passengers due to ease of connection to any global destination.

The development is also expected to pave the way for easier travel and trade between the UK and Rwanda.

In a recent article by The Telegraph, a UK newspaper, Yamina Karitanyi, Rwanda’s High Commission to the UK is quoted saying that RwandAir flying from Heathrow to Kigali can serve as an air corridor between the two parts of the world.

The development also paves the way for easier travel and trade between the UK and Rwanda, and officials say that it is even more timely with Rwanda’s hosting of CHOGM and later chairing the commonwealth, this is a welcome development.

CHOGM is the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting that is slated for Kigali in June next year, after which Rwanda will take over from the United Kingdom as the chair of the 54-nation block.

Makolo said that currently, the carrier operates two flights a week out of London but could be added depending on traffic and demand.

RwandAir resumed commercial flights in August after months of suspension due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

During the pandemic, RwandAir was operating cargo flights including to Heathrow responding to demand in movement of goods as well as supporting the country access essential supplies.

In May, the Government announced that the national carrier would receive Rwf145.1 billion in the 2020-21 fiscal year, up from Rwf121.8 billion this financial year. This is meant to help the airline to respond to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The funds are also meant to facilitate the airline to continue its expansion plan, including the acquisition of new planes and opening new routes.

Before suspending its passenger flights, RwandAir was operating 29 destinations across Africa, Europe and Asia.

cmwai@newtimesrwanda.com

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