National carrier, RwandAir, will at 12:45pm tomorrow, take off for the first direct commercial flight to Gatwick International Airport, London’s second busiest airport.
The first European destination by the airline will be serviced by a brand new Airbus A330 aircraft that boasts of in-flight connectivity.
The airline will fly to the English capital three times a week.
The addition of Gatwick – London takes the airline to 22 destinations served currently.
This direct seamless long-haul flight to the Europe’s financial capital, according to aviation experts, is an important milestone towards improving trade relations between Rwanda, the region and the European continent.
It also makes the route more competitive and more efficient which will ultimately benefit passengers.
Rwandan exporters say they are excited and looking forward to taking full advantage of the opportunities abound.
“We anticipate increased volumes in terms of exports to the European market through the UK,” said Epimaque Nsanzabaganwa, the horticulture division manager at the National Agricultural Export Development Board (NAEB).
RwandAir has already offered to cut freight charges for exporters to as low as $0.95 per kilogramme.
Donatille Nibagwire, the managing director of FLORIS Export Company, said the new developments are very likely to change the dynamics of the country’s export business.
Meanwhile, experts say flights to Europe’s financial capital will boost tourism between the UK and Rwanda.
Osborn Kinene, the Rwanda Eco-Tours country manager, said the flights will lead to increased number of tourists visiting the two countries.
“Rwanda is counting on tourism to boost its exports, therefore creating a seamless connectivity between Rwanda and other markets means people can now find it easier to travel between destinations,” he told The New Times.
Connecting Kigali to markets in Asia, Europe and later alone America means increase in volumes of trade as well as enhanced tourism which will drive economic development and sustainability, Kinene added.
In addition, Rwanda has recently become one of the countries that offer tourists a ‘Big 5’ experience, having reintroduced both lions and eastern black rhinoceros into Akagera National Park.
The introduction of direct flights to London by RwandAir brings enhanced and affordable connectivity, which will boost tourism, one of the country’s main foreign exchange earners.
Last month, the airline launched direct flights to Mumbai, India’s financial capital.
More long-haul flights in the offing
Meanwhile, RwandAir is scheduled to launch flights to New York and later other Asian destinations.
On the African front, the airline plans to fly to Conakry in Guinea, Bamako in Mali, as well as Dakar, Senegal, Lilongwe in Malawi and Durban in South Africa.
Last year, the airline acquired its first A330-200 and A330-300 Airbus planes, boosting its fleet to 11 aircraft and capacity to compete globally.
It is also scheduled to take delivery of another brand new Boeing before end May.
RwandAir carried more than 650,000 passengers last year and projects to transport over three million in the next five years.
Patrick Gakuru, a Kigali-based aviation expert, said the airline’s recent expansion and growth strategy is reflection of Rwanda’s resilience.
“The growth of aviation business in Rwanda is a reflection of the general economic performance which has showed resilience under the good leadership of President Kagame,” Gakuru said.
RwandAir is IATA Operational Safety Audit certified. The globally-recognised and accepted evaluation certification confirms that the airline’s operational management and control systems meet international civil aviation safety and other standards.