At exactly 12:55pm local time, RwandAir’s Airbus A330-300 took off from Kigali International Airport heading to Gatwick International Airport, London’s second busiest airport.
This was the first direct flight to Europe by the national carrier.
To Enock Enugu, a Nigerian national who was on the maiden flight to London, said this is “a milestone and a demonstration of how much the country has achieved under the current leadership.”
On board the recently acquired aircraft (Umurage) were more than 60 passengers excited to fly from the heart of Africa heading to Europe’s financial hub.
The flight was expected to touch down at Gatwick at exactly 8p.m local time (10p.m Rwandan time).
Yvonne Manzi Makolo, RwandAir’s deputy chief executive officer in charge of corporate affairs, confirmed the national carrier will be flying to London three times week.
She said the airline wants to leverage London and spread its wings further into the European continent.
“We have done enough market research and are confident about the Kigali-London route which is key to capturing the European market,” Makolo told Saturday Times before heading to London.
The addition of Gatwick – London takes the airline to 22 destinations, she added.
A business opportunity
Meanwhile, members of the private sector hailed the airline’s bold move to fly to London, calling it a business opportunity.
Denis Karera, a Kigali based business leader who was onboard the aircraft, urged the private sector to take advantage of the flights to help boost trade between London and Kigali.
“It is a business opportunity for everyone, especially the private sector, to seize,” he said adding that the route is expected to improve both tourism and exports in general.
This will eventually have a spillover effect of the economy, Karera noted.
More long-haul flights in offing
Meanwhile, RwandAir is scheduled to launch flights to New York and new 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.
Recently, the airline acquired its first A330 series (A330-200 and A330-300 Airbus aircraft)to boost its fleet and capacity.
It is also scheduled to receive another brand new Boeing on Sunday.
Experts say RwandAir’s ambitious expansion strategy could help position it as a major aviation player in the next five years.
The IATA Operational Safety Audit certified airline carried more than 650,000 passengers last year and projects to transport over three million in the next five years.