RwandAir has taken delivery of a Boeing 737-800, becoming the first African carrier to own and operate a 737 with the Boeing Sky Interior. The delivery also marks RwandAir’s first direct aircraft purchase.
The 737 arrived at Kigali International Airport on Saturday after a two day journey from Seattle. RwandAir expects its second 737-800 to arrive in the third week of October.
“For the first time in its brief history, RwandAir has bought directly from the manufacturer aircraft to add to its fleet. Prior to the delivery of this Boeing 737-800, our fleet has been drawn from a combination of wet leases, dry leases and purchase of second hand aircraft,” said John Mirenge, CEO of RwandAir.
The 737-800s will be used on the four times a week route to Johannesburg, as well as the route to Dubai.
“Today is a proud day for RwandAir as well as the country of Rwanda,” said Dr Alexis Nzahabwanimana, Minister of Transport for Rwanda. “Being the first airline on the African continent with the Boeing Sky Interior certainly puts Rwanda at the forefront of the aviation industry in Africa today and beyond.”
As part of Boeing’s Humanitarian Delivery Flights program, Boeing partnered with RwandAir and international relief agency Operation USA to deliver 1 500 science and other educational books to the Rotary Club of Kigali. The science books will be accepted by Rwanda’s Ministry of Education and distributed to high schools and universities throughout the country. The remaining books will be distributed to the Kigali Public Library – Rwanda’s first public library.
RwandAir is expanding its fleets as its passenger load grows – during the 737’s delivery ceremony, Mirenge said the airline plans to own and operate 18 aircraft by 2020 including a 787 Dreamliner for intercontinental operations.
“Two years ago we were a virtual airline, with two leased planes. Now we are a real airline, with six owned and dry-leased planes,” Mirenge said. “Two years ago we carried an average of 5 000 passengers per month, and today we carry an average of 15 000 passengers a month,” something he attributed to adding domestic, regional and continental destinations to RwandAir’s route network.
“For us, a well-developed air transport system is directly linked to attracting both foreign and domestic investment in Rwanda,” said Albert Nsengiyumva, the Minister for Infrastructure, during a ceremony at Kigali International Airport. “In the long run, even the cost of doing business is greatly reduced with an efficient and reliable transport system.”
The 737-800 is a stretched version of the 737-700, and replaces the 737-400. The variant was launched by Hapag-Lloyd Flug (now TUIfly) in 1994 and entered service in 1998. The 737-800 seats 162 passengers in a two-class layout, or 189 in one class.
“With this new airplane, RwandAir will provide our passengers with unmatched reliability and the most unique flying experience in the sky today,” said Mirenge. “We are confident our customers will look back on their flight with enthusiasm and excitement for their next flight.”
Operating from Kigali as its hub, RwandAir’s fleet includes two Boeing 737-500s (leased from GECAS), two Bombardier CRJ200s and a Dash8-200. The carrier serves most East African Community capital cities with daily flights and it flies to Johannesburg, Brazzavile, Libreville and Dubai.