RwandAir Resumes Fifth Freedom China Route Solely For Cargo

RwandAir has resumed cargo flights on its fifth freedom route between Kigali and Guangzhou China by way of Mumbai as of this week. The carrier has a weekly cargo flight to Brussels and London with its A330 fleet, but this route to China will only be on an on-demand basis for the foreseeable future.

RwandAir Airbus A330-243
RwandAir has resumed access to China. Photo: Pedro Aragão via Wikipedia Commons

What are the details?

Before the current aviation crisis, RwandAir made a big splash on the international scene with a variety of well-thought-out international routes. The carrier began by launching new routes to Mumbai, Tel Aviv, and Kinshasa. It even had aspirations for a direct route to the US.

But first, it would need to secure a very lucrative destination. China is Rwanda’s largest exporting partner, making up 21.24% of its total export share value in 2016.

The China route was launched back in June 2019 and has been a big success for the airline. Instead of flying direct (which would be difficult to accomplish in the best of times) RwandAir facilitated a fifth freedom route from its Mumbai destination.

Route Map: KGL-BOM-CAN. Photo: Great Circle Mapper
The route travels a total of 5,860mi, 3,233mi between KGL-BOM, 2,617mi between BOM-CAN. Photo: GC Mapper

RwandAir has a fleet of 12 aircraft. This includes one Airbus A330-300 and one Airbus A330-300 (and two A330-900s on order). There are also six Boeing 737 variants (and two Boeing 737 MAX 8s on order) and four regional aircraft. This fifth freedom route will be operated by the A330 fleet.

However, this would all come crashing down during the current aviation crisis with the carrier pausing all passenger routes in February.

What are the recent developments?

Rwandair has decided to somewhat resume its very lucrative fifth freedom route between Kigal-Mumbai-Guangzhou. However, the operation of this route will not be like its London and Brussels cargo flights as it won’t have a regular schedule. The service will only run when there is a special cargo charter between the two countries.

“The cargo flights to Guangzhou are not a complete reinstatement, it will operate as an ad-hoc cargo flight that will be coming in on demand. RwandAir is here to support the economy, there many exporters who currently need to export their goods to Europe and China, and this flight comes in to fill the existing demand,” said Jimmy Musoni, the airline’s director of global sales and operations, to The East African.

In addition, this will also have the benefit of running cargo to and from India as the aircraft moves through.

RwandAir jet
So far only two other cargo routes are operating into Rwanda from Europe. Photo: Getty Images

Rwandair is trying to recover its growth that it lost at the start of the year. Without tourists, business travelers, and very limited cargo operations, the impact has been significant.

 “The loss is huge, it was a complete halt, we are still quantifying the total loss, but the airline continues to suffer financial shock especially from the on-going refunds and fixed costs like servicing loan commitments,” spoke Mr. Musoni to Ventures Africa.

This China route reopening in addition to proposed government financial relief to reinvigorate the sector will take the pressure off the carrier.

What do you think? Will this be the return of Rwandair? Let us know in the comments.