When John Mirenge, CEO of RwandAir, a few days ago received the IOSA Certificate from IATA’s Vice President for Africa Raphael Kuuchi, he singled out the support by the government of Rwanda and the hard work and dedication of his staff as two major factors for this impressive success story.
But he lingered only a little while on what the airline, the first of ten selected by IATA for a pilot program, had accomplished while undergoing this most vigorous of audits in the aviation industry, and as is his custom, straight away looked ahead to the things still to come.
Next to conquer will be a similarly extensive audit for the airline’s ground-handling unit for which IATA (International Air Transport Association) had launched a second tier audit named ISAGO, short for IATA Safety Audit for Ground Operations, to not only assure passengers of safe operations as certified under IOSA but also to assure other air operators using the handling services at Kigali’s international airport of equally high standards when it comes to ground handling.
The handover ceremony, a high-flying affair with popping champagne corks and the cutting of a ceremonial cake, with all the excitement going alongside, was a crowded affair as John Mirenge was literally mobbed by the media representatives present, and we wisely agreed to do a follow-up interview a few days afterwards, when the sense of accomplishment was still fresh but the atmosphere calmer.
It was Friday, December 12, that John Mirenge took time out from his busy schedule and sat down with this correspondent for an hour-long chat, first on deep background and then on the record, as documented in the following YouTube videos.
“We are looking at a fleet of 11 aircraft and to fly to 25 destinations by 2017,” was one of the key statements made by the CEO, once again affirming that while Rwanda may be a geographically-small country, there is nothing small at all about the country’s vision of where ‘The Land of a Thousand Hills’ wants to be in a few years’ time, and RwandAir clearly fits in one-hundred percent into that vision of the ‘New Rwanda,’ the government, together with the people of Rwanda … developed over the past years.
The airline presently operates a fleet of 5 owned and 2 leased aircraft, two ex-production line B737-800NG Skyinterior, two ex-production line Bombardier CRJ900NextGen, and one ex-production line Bombardier Q400NextGen which are joined by two leased B737-700NGs, formerly operated by TuiFly and 5 and 6 years old respectively when they joined the fleet in Kigali last year.
While it was announced here a few weeks ago, following the launch of destination 16, Tanzania’s lakeside city of Mwanza, that two new aircraft will join the fleet over the next 12 to 18 months, John Mirenge affirmed that indeed a second brand-new Bombardier Q400NextGen will be delivered during the first couple of months of 2015, to be followed later that year or in early 2016 by a third brand-new Boeing B737-800NG Skyinterior.
That will bring the number of aircraft operated to 9 and will cater to an extensive network across Eastern, Southern, and Western Africa to then feed into the planned long-haul operations which will be launched, when in the 2017/18 financial year two Boeing B787 Dreamliners will arrive in Kigali.
Closer to that, however, and that was breaking news, too, not known outside the RwandAir headquarters until this moment, Lusaka will be launched within the space of weeks, after the South African Civil Aviation Authority is granted, in the record time of three days after filing the application, 5th freedom rights between Lusaka and Johannesburg, making flights from Kigali to Lusaka suddenly viable by combining the routing and serving two destinations. According to John Mirenge, initially four of the daily flights to Johannesburg will touch down in Lusaka, and the remaining three flights, and here is some positive speculation involved, may sometime next year route via Harare, another destination eyed by RwandAir in the Southern part of the continent.