RwandAir To Operate Mumbai – Guangzhou Fifth Freedom Route

Effective the 18th of June, RwandAir, the national airline of Rwanda, will fly a fifth-freedom route between Mumbai, India, and Guangzhou, China. RwandAir will be the only airline offering direct services between India’s most significant and China’s third-largest cities by population size.

Illustration of RwandAir Airbus A330-200. Photo: Airbus
Illustration of RwandAir Airbus A330-200. Photo: Airbus

Guangzhou is the second latest route announcement by the airline, with flights to Tel Aviv set to commence in late June 2019. The addition of Guangzhou and Tel Aviv brings the total number of destinations served by RwandAir to 29.

The new route

The new route, as a fifth-freedom leg, tags on to RwandAir’s existing Kigali to Mumbai flights. This allows the airline to serve passengers and cargo who have no intention of traveling on to Kigali between Mumbai and Guangzhou.

Flights to Guangzhou will operate three times a week, on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. They will be operated by one of the airline’s Airbus A330s.

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

The outbound flight (WB 500) is set to leave Kigali (KGL) at 00:40, arriving in Mumbai (BOM) at 11:30, same day, local time. The leg to Guangzhou (CAN) leaves one hour and ten minutes later, arriving on the same day at 21:30 local time.

On the return (WB 501), the CAN-BOM flight departs at 23:20, arriving at 2:50 the next day. The BOM-KGL leg leaves Mumbai at 04:15 and touches down in Kigali at 7:30, same day, local time.

More than just about the PAX

In a press release, RwandAir CEO noted the importance of cargo:

“With the increasing volume of trade between African countries and China, the need to meet the high demand of businessmen and traders traveling between Africa and Guangzhou is strongly felt. This new route will open new business opportunities and also increase our passenger and cargo traffic.”

RwandAir's Q400 NextGen Airliner
RwandAir’s Q400 NextGen Airliner. Photo: Bombardier

According to World Bank Data from 2016, China is Rwanda’s largest export partner, holding 21.24% of total export share valued at 378 million USD.

Assuming that China’s trade importance for Rwanda has not significantly decreased in the past three years, direct passenger and cargo access to China’s leading industrial and economic heartland offer business people across China and Rwanda next to unprecedented access.

Moreover, Guangzhou is only 120km from Hong-Kong and 145km from Macau. The wider region is also home to a significant number of international foreign residents, many of whom may have personal or business connections across Africa.

A competitive and challenging space.

As reported by Wendover Productions, Rwanda is trying to become the Singapore of Africa by becoming a business-friendly, centrally located, and stable nation compared to its regional peers.

We think that RwandAir could become the Singapore Airlines of Africa. The key to this development is route network and fleet growth, as well as on-board product improvements. The addition of Guangzhou to the RwandAir network is undoubtedly consistent with this view.

The Africa-Middle East/Asia market is, however, a competitive one. Regionally, Ethiopian Airlines has become the undisputed African airline leader and has invested in other national airlines to stimulate pan-African growth.

Ethiopian 737 MAX
Ethiopian has seen significant growth in the past years. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Simultaneously, international carriers such as Emirates and Turkish have looked towards Africa to promote connecting-passenger growth through their respective hubs in Dubai and Istanbul.

In such a competitive space, RwandAir certainly has its work cut out for them. Yet, with increasing trade links between Rwanda, China and India, and a state policy pushing for economic growth, RwandAir’s Guangzhou flight might be in it for the long-haul.