Rwanda is an incredible country that has been trying to grow its tourism significantly (at least pre-coronavirus), and RwandAir is a part of that strategy. While it’s not the most profitable airline, it serves the purpose of providing more access to Rwanda, and that’s something the government has been supportive of.
Unfortunately, some of the company’s big growth plans won’t be happening anymore.
It’s being reported that RwandAir has canceled its outstanding aircraft orders. Specifically, this means that RwandAir has canceled its order for two Airbus A330-900neos, and two Boeing 737 MAX 8s.
RwandAir currently has a fleet of a dozen aircraft, made up of six different models:
- One A330-200
- One A330-300
- Two 737-700s
- Four 737-800s
- Two CRJ-900s
- Two Dash 8-400s
RwandAir was going to use its remaining aircraft orders to expand its routemap, though that’s now not in the cards anymore. The terms of the agreement haven’t been made public, so we don’t know how much the national airline of Rwanda spent to cancel these plane orders.
Presumably the agreement would be different with Boeing than Airbus, given the 737 MAX’s issues. Then again, Airbus just picked up a new order for eight A330-900neos, thanks to Starlux Airlines.
RwandAir will no longer fly to the US
Pre-pandemic, RwandAir flew its current A330s to London (via Brussels) and to Guangzhou (via Mumbai). RwandAir’s plan all along has been to launch flights to the US. This was initially supposed to happen in 2018, but was delayed.
In late 2018 the plan was for New York flights to launch by 2019 at the latest, and for the service to operate from Kigali to New York via Accra, due to range issues with the A330-900neo.
Unfortunately, with RwandAir canceling its A330-900neo order, I think it’s also safe to assume that service to the United States is no longer in the cards.
Qatar Airways may still buy stake in RwandAir
It’s worth noting that earlier this year (pre-pandemic) Qatar Airways was considering acquiring a 49% stake in RwandAir, and as far as I know that’s still under consideration, even though the pandemic may delay that a bit. This would be part of a larger investment by Qatar in Rwanda.
If that were to happen, my guess is that the plan would be for Qatar Airways to lease RwandAir some of its aircraft. Keep in mind that Qatar Airways also owned a 49% stake in Air Italy, and at one point the plan was for Qatar Airways to lease Air Italy dozens of 787s. But then Air Italy liquidated…
RwandAir has canceled its existing four aircraft orders, comprised of A330-900neos and 737 MAX 8s. I can understand the logic, though it’s also a shame, as those A330s were supposed to allow RwandAir to increase long haul flights.
A Qatar Airways investment in RwandAir is still on the table, so maybe not all hope is lost for growth — I’m sure Qatar Airways would be happy to lease RwandAir some planes.
What do you make of RwandAir canceling its aircraft orders?