RwandAir Cancels Its Boeing 737 MAX Commitments

Ambitious East African airline RwandAir has been revealed to no longer be taking its order of new aircraft. The airline had ordered two Boeing 737 MAX and two A330neos, all to be delivered from leasing companies. However, these will now not arrive with the carrier, as the airline contemplates instead leasing aircraft from its future partner Qatar Airways.

Rwandair’s future fleet plans hang in the balance. Photo: Rwandair

RwandAir gives up on the MAX and neos

Rwandan flag carrier RwandAir has hit the brakes on the future delivery of both the Airbus A330neo and the Boeing 737 MAX. It had ordered the aircraft to be supplied via lessors but will now not take them at all. The fledgling airline should have received two of each type of aircraft.

The order was made amid expansion plans for the airline, which had been put in place back in 2018. The neos were coming from LAC while the MAX jets were to be supplied by SMBC Aviation Capital.

RwandAir had planned to use the aircraft to add new destinations to its network. The airline had ambitions to head as far away as New York with the A330neo, and to other new destinations with the 737 MAX.

Now, RwandAir Chief Executive Yvonne Makolo has told FlightGlobal that plans for the airline’s future fleet remain to be decided, saying,

“The process of rationalising the fleet and working on the fleet mix is still a work in progress. In line with our growth with our future partner, the fleet mix will change.”

That future partner is Qatar Airways. It was revealed back in February that Qatar was negotiating for a stake as large as 49% in RwandAir. This followed its previous purchase of 60% of the new Kigali Airport. Makolo confirmed to FlightGlobal that these discussions were still ongoing.

Stay informed: Sign up for our daily aviation news digest.

Neither the MAX nor the A330neos will be delivered. Photo: RwandAir

Leasing planes from Qatar

With no new planes on the horizon, RwandAir is left with a rather piecemeal fleet. From the fleet of 12 aircraft, there were six different types, spanning the A330-200 and -300, the 737-700 and -800, the CRJ-900 and the DHC-8-400. Although some are from the same family, maintaining and operating such a diverse fleet is never going to be cost-effective.

Nevertheless, the airline’s back-up plan of growing with its future partner Qatar will likely change all that. Qatar’s previous investment in Air Italy saw the Middle East airline supplying a number of aircraft, including A330 widebodies and three brand new Boeing 737 MAX.

Air Italy 737 MAX
Qatar supplied a number of aircraft to Air Italy. Photo: Getty Images

Since the collapse of Air Italy, Qatar has canceled its order for more 737 MAX. It has also delayed deliveries of new aircraft from Airbus. Nevertheless, it still has the ex-Air Italy MAXs to find homes for, and an oversupply of aircraft of its own. Without a doubt, it would be a win-win for both airlines if Qatar were to lease some of its redundant capacity to spur Rwanda’s growth.

For the time being, however, RwandAir is keen to sit and wait, to see how the current crisis pans out. Although it began flying again in August, it is mainly serving local markets and still has almost half of its fleet parked up. But with some big Middle Eastern muscle behind it, RwandAir is poised to bounce back strong once demand ticks back up again.