Gerald Zirimwabagabo, the new Rwandair Express Director General has refuted allegations that the company is facing serious operational difficulties.
This comes in the wake of continued passenger grumbles about delayed or disrupted flights ever since the airline withdrew the services of one of its two aircrafts last March.
“There is no crisis in Rwandair,” Zirimwabagabo told The New Times Tuesday.
“It is no secret that since we cancelled that contract we could no longer fly directly to South Africa.”
The contract for the lease of a Boeing 737-200 was cancelled allegedly due to breach of contract by Air Malawi, the company that had supplied the faulty aircraft. Flights to Johannesburg, Nairobi, Bujumbura, Entebbe and Kilimanjaro were affected.
“In the mean time, we have a code-sharing agreement with South African Airways to fly our passengers from Kigali to Johannesburg,” he explained.
“In the absence of that aircraft, we book our passengers on South African Airways from Entebbe and on South African Airways and Kenya Airways from Nairobi to Johannesburg,” he said this also applies to passengers from Johannesburg to Kigali via Nairobi and Entebbe.
Zirimwabagabo acknowledged that rerouting passengers is an inconvenience but pointed out that it is a common practice.
“It’s something that all passengers who fly often experience,” he said.
“We are concerned and we are working twenty four hours to get new aircrafts.” He said Rwandair was trying to acquire two to three additional planes.
“This will be a lease-to-purchase arrangement,” Zirimwabagabo explained the airline’s intention to purchase and finally own the aircrafts.
Rwandair currently has only one aircraft, a 40-seater Dash-8 plane that covers Kamembe, Entebbe, Bujumbura and Kilimanjaro routes.
In an exclusive interview last month, Pierre-Claver Kabera, the Company Secretary emphasized the need for a better deal.
‘‘We should either have our own aircraft or a better contract,’’ Kabera said, stressing the need for full control over aircrafts or leasing from companies that, ‘‘respect the contract.’’
He continued that the company was careful about, ‘‘not leasing just any plane,’’ but getting a better plane so as to avoid running into problems.
‘‘We are looking for better quality,’’ he added.
While showing The New Times a report: ‘Aircraft Search Status as of Tuesday 6th May 2008,’ Zirimwabagabo said that he couldn’t point to an exact date when other planes would be leased.
“It depends on the availability of aircrafts on the market and right now, there are very few aircraft for lease or purchase,” he said.
Ever since the ‘Boeing’ contract was cancelled on March 27, the company has been contacting aircraft owners and by May 6, it had gone through about 25 agencies.
“All those searches are now beginning to yield results,” he pointed out, “by the beginning of June, we will have acquired at least one aircraft.”