Rwandair Express is set to resume operation to Johannesburg, South Africa, after negotiations to lease a Boeing 737-300 plane conclude next month, said Gerald Zilimwabagabo Chairman and Managing Director Rwandair-Express.
Rwandair suspended operations on the route after the only leased plane, a member of the Boeing 737 family, was grounded four months ago following technical problems.
The grounded aircraft was leased from Air Malawi last April on a wet lease agreement—covering insurance, maintenance and crew provision.
The grounding brought to a temporary standstill flights to Nairobi, Kenya, Bujumbura, Burundi and Kilimanjaro, Tanzania.
Zilimwabagabo, who said Rwandair is leasing the new plane from “the region,” but could not say specifically where, said the airline is getting back on its feet.
“We have come a long way in the first four months but we have pretty much stabilised our operations with stable routes,” he said. After the Malawian plane was returned, Rwandair leased two smaller aircrafts, one from Jetlink and the other from 748 in Nairobi.
Market speculation indicates that Rwandair could be losing more than $636,000 (Frw346.9 million) a month from the grounding of the Kigali-Johannesburg bound plane.
The chairman of Rwandair, however, did not deny or confirm the amount.
“I am busy. I have other things to do,” Zilimwabagabo said when asked about the potential monetary losses.
After leasing a SRJ-100 from Jetlink and Dash8-100 from 748, an aviation firm from Kenya, Rwandair has increased its routes to different destinations such as Entebbe, Uganda, and Nairobi.
The company plans to purchase two new aircrafts and one used one between 2008 and 2015, Zilimwabagabo said, adding the airline also intends to begin new destinations to Gisenyi by October, Dar es Salaam, and Zanzibar before end this year.
The chairman said he also has high hopes for its upcoming partnership with Lonrho Aviation, a UK-based company that will be sold a 49 per cent share of the capital.
Zilimwabagabo said the partnership will help the airline improve its services, route network and management.
He said he is optimistic that after the recovery, Rwandair will be able to attract new potential investors after its privatisation hit a snag when Brussels Airline, which had emerged as the highest bidder, failed to submit its financial proposal.