Q&A: RwandAir – On the rise

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RwandAir, the national carrier for Rwanda, has big plans for a piece of the global air travel market. With one of the youngest fleets in Africa, the airline connects 26 cities in Western, Central, Eastern and Southern Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Europe. When the airline entered Europe last year with flights to Gatwick and Brussels, it increased its visibility on the world stage. Thembela Dladla, RwandAir’s Country Manager for South Africa, took some time to answer a few questions.

Q: What are your views on the state of the African airline industry?

A: The state of the African airline industry remains dynamic and very complex. In some instances, you do see positive growth and focus with continued expansions that benefits the movement of people and goods across the continent. In other instances, we see a decline and failure, especially when it comes to regional airlines across the continent. We have seen an increase in creating regional hubs focusing on connecting the four corners of the continent. Regional airlines such as RwandAir are continuing to focus on just the basics, including customer satisfaction. There’s a great need for airlines on the continent to focus on making customer satisfaction a priority, as this will not only benefit the passenger but also the overall offering across the industry.

Q: What are your thoughts on the concept of an ‘open skies’ policy in Africa in the future?

A: In order to ensure that the continent’s full economic potential is realised, effective and efficient movement of people across the continent is very important and air transport is best suited to facilitate the movement of both passengers and certain goods. Restricted air space hinders such progress and therefore it is very important that Africa ensures that any ‘open skies’ policy is supported, as it will be beneficial in ensuring the ease of movement of people and goods across this vast continent.

Q: What new routes have you added to your network in the last 12 months?

A: Johannesburg-Lusaka, Cape Town-Harare/Kigali, Johannesburg-Abuja via Kigali, and Johannesburg-Cotonou via Kigali. Over the next 12 months, RwandAir is planning on adding a few more destinations including New York in 2019, Guangzhou, Tel Aviv, Bamako and Conakry.

Q: What was the business case behind the new routes to Abuja and Cape Town?

A: Cape Town is a well sort out destination for most Africans and it was only natural for RwandAir to add this beautiful destination to our network and also to respond to market demands such as a direct service between Cape Town and Harare. Also, it is important to note that due to growth plans put in place by a Cape Town Air Access team, we also wanted to participate and take advantage of the available opportunities out of Cape Town by connecting the city to the rest of the continent.

Q: Has RwandAir made any changes to its fleet in the last 18 months?

A: RwandAir recently took delivery of Boeing 737-800 Next Generation and A330-300 aircraft with full on-board connectivity including GSM and wi-fi.

Q: Where is your focus in terms of improving your on-board business class product?

A: At the moment, RwandAir has embarked on rebranding and rejuvenating our business class product (called Dream Class), by ensuring that we put in place a seamless world-class service offering. We have also focused our energy on ensuring that comfort and overall experience is individualised to each customer’s needs. On-board connectivity is one of our key unique selling points as it allows our business travellers to stay connected if they choose to.

Q: What do you believe your business class passengers are looking for from their carrier?

A: Outside of the key important elements such as on time departure and safety, business class travellers prefer a customised service offering which caters for their individual needs, and at RwandAir we try our best to render that service offering.

Q: Where would you like to see RwandAir in 10 years’ time?

A: In the next 10 years we would like to see RwandAir being Africa’s airline of choice for both business and leisure travellers, as we expand our network through our Kigali hub. Connecting passengers through Kigali will ensure improved intra-Africa connectivity for most people travelling within the continent.