Rwandair Scraps London Gatwick For London Heathrow

RwandAir has announced that it is to resume flights to the European cities of London and Brussels from its hub in Kigali, Rwanda. This service will begin on October 3rd as the African airline works towards rebuilding its passenger network. One notable switch from prior service is that the airline will operate service to London Heathrow rather than London Gatwick.

Illustration of RwandAir Airbus A330-200. Photo: Airbus
RwandAir uses the Airbus A330-200 for its long-haul services. Photo: Airbus

Service to begin in about two weeks

The inaugural RwandAir service from Kigali to Brussels and London Heathrow will depart on October 3rd at 01:00 local time. Both services will use the twin-aisle A330. The airline has only two A330s, one is the shorter -200, and the other a stretched -300. Our guess is that the -300 will operate the Heathrow service while the -200 will go to Brussels.

Flights to these European cities will initially resume on a twice-weekly basis, before increasing to three-times-weekly from October 25th.

rwandair routes
The flight distances are both roughly 4,000 miles long. Photo:

“Now travel bans and restrictions are being relaxed, we can once again resume flying to and from London and Brussels, and look forward to welcoming customers flying from Europe back to RwandAir.” -Yvonne Manzi Makolo, CEO of RwandAir

Makolo adds that the airline has been operating cargo and repatriation flights from London Heathrow during the pandemic. Now the carrier will operate scheduled passenger flights for the first time into and out of one of Europe’s largest and busiest airports.

Moving from London Heathrow to London Gatwick

Once Rwandair resumes its European services, the airline’s UK operations will switch from London Gatwick to London Heathrow for the first time. Simple Flying asked the airline their reasoning for the change. The airline responded, saying the following:

“The move to London Heathrow allows RwandAir to take advantage of the wider network of connecting passengers from around the world, as well as giving passengers in the UK better access to RwandAir flights from London.”

As part of the airline’s official press release, it had also noted that this move would “significantly benefit customers flying into Heathrow from other UK cities who then wish to fly on seamlessly to Rwanda and other parts of Africa.” Adding that it has “never been easier” to reach Kigali or other major African cities such as Nairobi, Entebbe, Lusaka, and Harare from London.

Rwandair Scraps London Gatwick For London Heathrow
Transferring between Heathrow and Gatwick would require officially entering the UK. Photo: dannyman via Wikimedia 

Indeed Heathrow is a much larger airport and connects to many more cities around the world. This is particularly important for connecting travelers as a transfer requiring them to switch from Heathrow to Gatwick (or vice versa) may require a visa – and undoubtedly the hassle of passing through customs and immigration.

Of course, when it comes to connections and reaching other major African cities, Ethiopian Airlines and Kenya Airways are two additional carriers to compete with – not to mention some of the African cities served by British Airways.

Pandemic operations

Like most airlines, Rwandair has been severely restricted in its ability to operate during the worst of the pandemic. Between March 20th and July 31st, the carrier suspended all passenger flights from Rwanda, except for freight-only flights to Brussels and Guangzhou, to carry critical medical supplies as well as other essential cargo.

Throughout the worst of the pandemic, the airline flew to China and the UK for cargo and repatriation purposes. Photo: RwandAir

However, since August 1st, the airline has gradually resumed commercial flights across its global network, including select African routes, as well as some long-haul destinations such as Dubai.

As it ramps up its passenger operations, the airline says that it will continue to keep its schedules under constant review so it can respond quickly and responsibly to customer demand – as well as the changing epidemiological situation for travel.

Have you ever flown with Rwandair? Please share your experience with us in the comments.