MIAMI – African carrier RwandaAir (WB) filed a request with the Department of Transportation (DoT) to operate flights between Kigali Airport (KGL) and New York (JFK), via Accra (ACC) in Ghana.

RwandaAir expects travel restrictions to open by December 2021, when it plans to start operations. The airline already offers flights beyond the African continent to London (both LHR and LGW), Brussels (BRU), as well as Dubai (DBX), and now plans the expansion of its operations to the US. 

Yvonne Manzi Makolo, CEO of Rwanda’s flagship carrier, had already presented the intentions of the deployment of this route back in 2018. At the time, she had recognised US as one of the biggest foreign-exchange earners and highlighted the importance of tourism, especially the MICE (conference) tourism, for Rwanda. In her view, then, entering the US market will mean a great boost for the airline.

As Africa’s traffic is constantly growing and the potentials of the region is higher than ever, this route will also benefit WB’s new partnership with Qatar Airways (QR), which holds a 49% stake in the African carrier. 

The route between Kigali (KGL) and New York (JFK) is expected to be operated by the WB’s A330. The carrier owns two (2) variants of the aircraft, one A330-200, and one A330-300, with a three (3) class cabin configuration of business class, premium economy, and economy. The planes feature 244-274 seats. However, the small number of widebody aircraft to its fleet will have an impact to other routes which will be downgraded to narrowbodies. 

RwandAir 9XR-WT (F-WWKQ) Airbus A330-941. Photo: Alberto Cucini/Airways

The A330 Hop and the Completion

Even though both variants of the A330 are eligible to fly this route, the addition of ACC in Ghana has a greater benefit for the carrier. By breaking the route in two legs, WB opens another market that will attract more customers and guarantee higher load factors.

Furthermore, distance prevents the airline to use its maximum payload capacity. The route to JFK is close to the A300-300’s maximum range, which translate to payload restrictions for the airline. A stop to Accra (ACC) will prevent such challenge. 

However, WB will have to face some strong competition by initiating this route to the US. In the New York to Accra market, the airline will have to compete Delta Air Lines (DL). At the same time, United Airlines (UA) announced the launch of a non-stop flight between Washington and Accra, which is the only other nonstop flight between the US and Ghana. 

Featured image: RwandAir 9XR-WP Airbus A330-343. Photo: Milan Witham/Airways