By Julius Bizimungu
The national carrier RwandAir on Friday launched its new route to the Nigerian capital Abuja, making it the airline’s second destination in the West African country after the commercial hub Lagos.
The carrier will operate flights four times a week between Kigali and Abuja.
The airline sent its Boeing 737-700 on its maiden flight to Abuja airport, officially known as Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport, from Kigali International Airport at around 10:30a.m Friday.
Nnamdi Azikwe is the second busiest airport in Nigeria after Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos.
The Abuja route brings RwandAir’s destinations to 24, in Africa, Europe and Asia.
Besides Nigeria, RwandAir flies to many other West African countries and operates a regional hub in Benin.
Addressing the media at the airport in Kigali yesterday, Patrick Manzi, the airline’s marketing manager, said that the decision to fly to a second city in Nigeria was prompted by the higher demand in the West African country.
“There is a lot of potential within the Nigerian market. Nigeria is one of the markets that provide us a lot of revenues. Opening another route there is a way of tapping into this potential,” he said.
Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa, and the largest economy on the continent.
“It also means that this is a way of increasing connectivity in Africa, as well as business opportunities between Rwandans and Nigerians. At the same time, it will also be an opportunity for the airline to continue increasing connectivity in the West African states,” Manzi added.
According to the airline managers, RwandAir will be flying to Abuja and then connect to Accra, Ghana’s capital city.
On board the maiden flight to Abuja yesterday, were over 30 passengers.
Carunia Nesa, a passenger who talked to The New Times, said that the Kigali-Abuja route was needed.
“This route was really needed because there are so many people who frequently travel between Kigali and Abuja. The expectation is that this route will also increase opportunities to the people doing business between Rwanda and Nigeria,” she noted.
RwandAir officials were also optimistic that the route would help raise the airline’s revenue. Last year, Manzi said, the airline grew by 20 to 25 per cent in terms of revenue. During the year, the airline carried close to 900,000 passengers.
This year, they expect to transport nearly 1.2 million people.
In a month time, officials expect to inaugurate another African route, which will be followed by new long-haul routes like Guangzhou, China.