RwandAir Plans to Launch New York Route via Possible Fifth-Freedom Stop in Ghana

Dec 11, 2018

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East African airline RwandAir will launch a New York route in mid-2019, and it plans to connect in Accra, Ghana to do so.

Yvonne Manzi Makolo, CEO of Rwanda’s flagship carrier, recently told Travel Weekly that the airline plans to use the New York route, with its Ghana stop, to connect East and West Africa in addition to reaching North America. If approved, the Accra-New York route will be a fifth-freedom flight — operated by a foreign carrier between two foreign countries as part of service connecting those points to the airline’s home country.

Makolo said that RwandAir anticipates tourists to be the airline’s primary target demographic, as “tourism has become very big in Rwanda,” Makolo said as the primary reason behind the airline’s decision to launch the new route. “It’s currently the biggest foreign-exchange earner. And conference tourism is also growing very fast,” she said, pointing out that Kigali is now the third most popular conference destination in Africa after Cape Town and Morocco.

The airline’s primary competitors will be Kenya Airways and Ethiopian, and the New York-Accra leg of the flight will compete with Delta as well, which operates the same route using a Boeing 767-300. But Makolo isn’t concerned about the other airlines. “We believe there is enough market for all of us,” Makolo told Travel Weekly, stating that the Kigali destination offers travelers additional options as opposed to Nairobi or Addis Ababa. South African Airways, Egyptair and Royal Air Maroc also fly Africa-US routes.

RwandAir plans to use the A330neo for the anticipated New York route, which feature fully lie-flat seats in business class, as well as premium economy and economy classes. Makolo said that the airline had hoped to begin flying to New York by June 2019, and the US Department of Transportation approved the route in March 2018. However, the FAA didn’t finish auditing the Kigali facility until Q4 of this year, delaying the overall process. “We are still working around the June 2019 timeline, but it might be pushed back,” Makolo said. The airline is still waiting to decide which New York airport it flies into, depending on where RwandAir is able to secure slots. 

RwandAir plans to use the Airbus A330neo on the New York route, a wide-body aircraft with fully flat beds for business class, and with a premium economy class. TPG Managing Editor Alberto Riva recently reviewed RwandAir’s Kigali to London route in business – a relatively rare bird in the AvGeek world, as it were.

Featured photo by Alberto Riva for The Points Guy.

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