Rwanda: RwandAir Resumes 70% of Pre-Covid Routes

23 November 2020

RwandAir, the national carrier, has expressed optimism of recovery following a resumption of majority of its routes that were halted due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The development was announced by the airline's CEO, Yvonne Makolo, in an exclusive interview with The New Times.

Makolo was commenting about the recently approved bilateral deals, which she said offers the national carrier an opportunity to fulfill its mission of connecting Rwanda to the rest of the world.

"I think we are doing quite well from a recovery perspective. We have so far resumed 70 percent of flights that were halted by the pandemic," she said.

In a bid to contain the novel coronavirus, the government in March this year closed all commercial flights flying in and out of the country. Only evacuation and cargo flights continued to operate.

Before suspending its passenger flights back in March, RwandAir was operating 29 destinations across Africa, Europe and Asia.

The decision was rescinded August 1, as flights by the national carrier resumed to few destinations under the Covid-19 containment guidelines to safeguard the health of passengers, crew and staff.

Some of the measures recommended by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) were among others temperature screening at entry points, maintaining physical distancing, regular sanitisation of touch objects and availing hygiene products onboard and at airports.

The global transport association also advised that health declaration and robust contact tracing may be undertaken by governments to reduce the risk of imported chains of transmission.

Prolonged slow traffic

Owing to the current Covid-19 situation in various continents including Europe, experts predict that there is potential for prolonged slow passenger traffic, further hindering the recovery process of airlines.

Questioned about the concern, Makolo reiterated "traffic is still low with the current restrictions of the pandemic and also the possible second phase in Europe."

In Europe, RwandAir operates flights to London and Brussels.

Reports indicate that 2020 is projected to be the worst year in aviation history and that airlines are in survival mode. This is mainly because air travel demand has significantly decreased with little confidence from passengers.

To address this, governments will need to further provide financial relief and assistance to airlines as well as flexibility in slot usage.

Makolo highlighted that the Government already announced that it will increase funding to the national carrier to Rwf145.1 billion in the 2020/21 fiscal year, up from Rwf121.8 billion the previous financial year, citing that it will bring more muscle to help the airline respond to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

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