As one plane was landing back at Kigali International Airport from Mumbai, India, the other was bound for its maiden flight to Zimbabwean capital, Harare. That just about sums up the goings on at RwandAir this week.
RwandAir’s Boeing 737-800, which made its maiden commercial flight to the Indian hub of Mumbai on Tuesday morning with 82 people onboard, excluding the cabin crew, safely returned home on Wednesday morning.
It touched down at Kigali International airport at 5:15, a.m.
Kalisimbi left Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport, on Tuesday evening, flying directly to Kigali — on its return leg with over 80 passengers — for a duration of about 7 hours.
The airliner, Boeing 737-800, 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 to Mumbai on Tuesday.
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 (to India), described the development as a solution to the previously “hectic” flight experience from Kigali to 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 to Mumbai. This is relieving,” Junambiar told The New Times.
Alex Buterere, RwandAir’s director of Global Sales and Operations, told journalists that 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 another great boost to trade and bilateral ties between Rwanda and India. It has great value in all ways,” he added.
Buterere said that the Kigali-Mumbai route now costs $600 as opposed to between $1500 and $2000 during high season.
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.
India, Rwanda visa application eased
Meanwhile, Indian government this week announced that Rwanda had been included on the e-visa list to India effective Monday, April 1.
The development means that Rwandan nationals can apply for Indian visa online without necessarily having to travel to Ugandan capital, Kampala, the seat of the embassy that also serves Rwanda, as was the case previously.
“Rwanda has been included in the e-visa list for travel to India with effect from April 1,” statement from Indian Embassy reads in parts.
Rwandan passport holders can apply for online visas for tourism, business and medical travel to India and stay up to a maximum 60 days, according to the statement.