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African carrier RwandAir will launch new links to Asia and Europe after concluding a deal with Airbus to introduce A330 widebodies into its fleet in the second half of 2016 and become the first customer for the type in East Africa. The airline has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) for two aircraft, one A330-200 and one A330-300 to support a major expansion in its network.
Rwanda’s national carrier says it will deploy its new A330s on medium-haul and long-haul routes from its home base at Kigali International Airport to destinations throughout Europe, the Middle East and Asia. The aircraft will be configured in a three-class arrangement seating with 261 (A330-200) and 300 (A330-300) passengers and will be powered by Rolls-Royce Trent 772B engines.
“As we look to introduce wide body aircraft for the first time into our fleet, with its proven economics, reliability and passenger comfort, we have found the A330 to perfectly support our plans to expand into Europe and Asia, to enhance our regional presence, to open up new routes and to grow our market share,’’ said John Mirenge, chief executive officer of RwandAir.
The long-haul aspirations for the East African carrier are not new. The airline placed an option for two Boeing 787s in 2011 for delivery in 2017 and 2018. It is unclear if this Airbus deal will supersede the Dreamliner purchase or simply act as an interim platform until the new generation jets arrive later in the decade. Boeing has never confirmed the RwandAir 787 deal which was apparently agreed when the carrier took delivery of its first 737-800.
“We are delighted that RwandAir has confirmed its confidence in the A330, and are extremely pleased to welcome them as a new A330 customer,” said John Leahy, chief operating officer, customers, Airbus, upon announcing the deal. “The A330 Family offers a unique combination of unbeatable economics, versatility and fuel efficiency. Passengers will be able to enjoy a new flying experience with state of the art inflight entertainment systems and best-in-class passenger comfort that only Airbus offers.”
RwandAir has embarked on a significant network expansion across Africa over recent years and in the past couple of months has become the de facto national carrier of Uganda after growing its activities from Entebbe International Airport. The A330 equipment will likely replace its single-aisle Boeing 737 equipment on its route from Kigali to Dubai with China understood to be the stand out destination for the carrier in Asia.
In its development plan RwandAir has highlighted the addition of a single destination in China, one in Europe and the introduction of flights to Mumbai, India as its medium and long-haul growth targets, alongside further growth across the African continent.