At exactly 11.10a.m in Mumbai, RwandAir’s maiden flight to the India city touched down at Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport, in what was described by the several people onboard as a “smooth flight”.
The Boeing 737-800 left Kigali International Airport at around 12:30a.m for a 6-hour 40 minutes journey.
The airliner, one of the national career’s recent acquisitions, christened Kalisimbi, had 82 people onboard, excluding the cabin crew.
The aircraft can carry up to 154 passengers.
“After a smooth flight with the newly acquired B737-800NG, the maiden flight to @CSIAMumbai touched down,” RwandAir tweeted following the historic flight.
Rwanda’s High Commissioner to India, Ernest Rwamucyo, described the feat as “a milestone” for Indo-Africa air connectivity.
RwandAir says it will be operating four non-stop flights from Kigali to Mumbai on a weekly basis.
Raghavan Nambiar, one of the passengers aboard the flight, described the development as a solution to the previously “hectic” flight experience from Kigali to the Indian hub of Mumbai.
“We are very happy to join the first flight of RwandAir to Mumbai.” Nambiar told reporters.
“For all these years, there was no direct flight (from Kigali) to Mumbai, it was always hectic to fly to Mumbai. One would fly either through Dubai or Doha, which would take about 10 to 14 hours. Now it is just 7 hours, we are very happy,” Nambiar said.
Manju Junambiar, an Indian native who has lived in Rwanda for over 25 years, said it was “an emotional moment” to fly to Mumbai with the Rwandan airliner.
“It is historical for me, it’s an emotional moment to fly to India with RwandAir. And I will be flying there after every three months. I have lived in Rwanda for 25 years and I feel so proud to be on RwandAir’s first flight back to Mumbai. This is relieving,” Junambiar told The New Times.
Alex Buterere, RwandAir’s director of Global Sale and Operations, told journalists that the maiden flight said the direct flight will enhance relations between the two countries.
“Under normal circumstances, from Kigali to Mumbai via Nairobi and Doha or Dubai, it would take about 10 hours. With this direct flight, it will take about 7 hours. Business-wise, this is a great advantage to the people,” Buterere said.
“This is yet really another great boost to trade and bilateral ties between our country and India. It has great value in all ways,” he added.
Buterere said that the Kigali-Mumbai route now costs USD600 as opposed to USD1500 to USD2000 during high season.
The flight is expected to return from Mumbai to Kigali tonight.
Meanwhile, the national carrier is also expected to make its maiden flight to London in the United Kingdom on May 26.
RwandAir plans to operate three direct flights a week from its hub in Kigali to London.