RwandAir Is Adding Flights To Brussels In July (With A Catch)

RwandAir is one of Africa’s two airlines that fascinates me most (along with TAAG Angola), and I’ve been wanting to fly with them. RwandAir has a fantastic A330 business class product consisting of Vantage XL seats, which are similar to what you’ll find in SAS business class.

RwandAir flies their A330s to Dubai, and in May also began flying 3x weekly between Kigali and London Gatwick, which represents their first route to Europe. This is an exciting development for a fairly young airline with a small fleet. They’ve even considering adding flights to New York in the next few years, which very much seems like a prestige route rather than a profit-driven route.

Today I saw a headline that RwandAir is also starting 3x weekly flights to Brussels, which caught me off guard, since I wondered where they got the additional plane from for the route (RwandAir only has a total of two A330s as of now).

As it turns out, RwandAir’s new Kigali to Brussels flight is simply a continuation of their current London service. As of July 14, 2017, RwandAir will operate their Kigali to London service as follows:

WB700 Kigali to Brussels departing 10:30AM arriving 7:00PM
WB700 Brussels to London Gatwick departing 8:10PM arriving 8:25PM
WB700 London Gatwick to Kigali departing 9:50PM arriving 7:30AM (+1 day)

Interestingly Brussels Airlines also flies to Kigali, and they have one stop on the outbound (in Entebbe, Uganda), and a nonstop on the return. Meanwhile there’s no other airline flying nonstop from London to Kigali.

What does this destination addition suggest to me?

  • RwandAir’s loads on the nonstop Kigali to London flight aren’t great, which is hardly surprising, so they’re trying to find a way to improve that
  • Brussels is another city with a decent amount of demand to Kigali, so hopefully between the two airports they can fill the plane reasonably well; the yields don’t seem to be great, but I doubt RwandAir is expecting them to be

Unfortunately it doesn’t look like you can book RwandAir just from Brussels to London Gatwick, at least not yet. If it were possible, that sure would be a fun way to fly between the two cities. It reminds me of Garuda Indonesia’s old route between Amsterdam and London Gatwick, which was discontinued in March 2016.

I’m hoping to fly RwandAir sometime soon, and maybe this “triangle” flight is a good one on which to experience their longhaul product. RwandAir’s business class fares in the market are pretty solid, typically around ~$2,000 roundtrip between Europe and Africa, and sometimes even lower.

If they still can’t fill up the plane with this new stop, maybe they’ll add New York into the mix while they’re at it — Kigali to Brussels to London to New York to Kigali. 😉

Comments

  1. Just out of interest do you use airline apps to keep track of all your flights? do you have a centralised app or is it old school print outs?

  2. They also codeshare on the SN BRU-KGL flights.
    Wondering if that will stop now they have their own flights.
    Booking the SN flight to KGL under WB is code is often a lot cheaper than under SN code.

  3. Ben, a few days ago I returned to Europe from Rwanda via Brussels Airlines. I had hoped their long-haul service might be at least a notch better than their dreadful intra-Europe service, but it wasn’t. In fact they were quite awful. They didn’t come through the cabin even once with water after meal service the entire night. Going to the rear galley to get water was ridiculous — I can’t remember any airline in 40 countries over the past few years with such crap long-haul service. Not even Air Asia. I was glad it was on an award ticket because I’d be seething if I had paid more than €70 or so.

    And on both flights to and from Rwanda I noticed the cabin crew are generally downright rude to their African passengers. Which I found obnoxious and unnecessary. They just talk louder and louder at the startled passengers if they don’t understand French or English.

    Rwanda was an amazing holiday. Would definitely try Rwanda Airlines if I went again. The Marriott Kigali was awesome.

  4. Talking of new routes…. and slight OT.

    Are you planning on flying the new Sri Lankan flight to Melbourne?

    Seems to be some pretty good fares.

  5. So I guess that means in BRU and LGW, you’d have passengers deplaning and boarding at the same time with the rest of pax staying on board? And then either in BRU or LGW you’d need a crew change? During which, does everyone stay in their seat?

    I didn’t realize you could have the same flight number going in both directions

    I guess I’m just curious how it works as you don’t hear much about this type of routing anymore

  6. @Jim: glad your experience in C was good! A lady on my flight who was in C (whom I’d met in Kigali) told me after deplaning that her experience was meh. I hope Ben flies on RwandAir after they launch the route and gives us a review of their business class.

  7. @Alan,

    It’s actually quite common to have the same flight number for the entire journey. It’s known in the industry as a round robin. KLM does Amsterdam-Kigali-Entebbe-Amsterdam. Swiss does Zurich-Nairobi-Dar es Salaam-Zurich. Through customers remain onboard the aircraft during the stopover, the cabin is refreshed, then the new customers are boarded. The cabin crew generally works the first two sectors, then are replaced for the return flight to the home base.

  8. “I guess I’m just curious how it works as you don’t hear much about this type of routing anymore”

    It’s profitable for the airlines. For example, Brussels flight SN 469 on some days departs Brussels, and lands first in Entebbe, where Entebbe-bound passengers deplane, then a cleaning crew comes on to vacuum and pick up trash while the Kigali-bound passengers remain on board. Then the new Brussels-bound passengers get onboard and the plane flies on to Kigali, where Kigali-bound passengers deplane. The new crew gets onboard, and the old crew deplanes. Then Brussels-bound passengers board. Crew remains overnight in Kigali and then flies back to Brussels the next night.

    It was sort of confusing to Etihad when they booked this award ticket for me because it’s true that not many flights these days use one flight number for all three legs. From a profit-making perspective it’s rather smart because you can generally charge high fares to these far-flung destinations and your plane is in the air roughly 18-19 hours out of 24. Also the flight timing is relatively decent — e.g. Turkish arrives much later into Kigali and departs well after midnight.

  9. Rwandair has not thought through the logistics of this flight completely.

    Rwandan passengers (and many other nationals from countries that constitute the primary markets for this flight) flying BRU-LGW-KGL will require UK Direct Airside Transit Visas to fly on this flight, even if they remain on board the aircraft at Gatwick.

    I had exactly the same issue when planning ACC-DUS-LGW-ACC flights and in the end we had to go with flying ACC-DUS-LGW-DUS-ACC instead of the triangle route. On the rare occasion we had to fly DUS-LGW-ACC or ACC-LGW-DUS for operational reasons, special permission had to be obtained from UK Immigration on a case-by-case basis.

    The UK does not accept standard “C” class Schengen visas as exemption documents from the DATV requirements. They require a class “D” visa from an EEA state or else a class “C” visa issued under ADS scheme for the exemption. Therefore your average Rwandan/Ugandan/Kenyan/Tanzanian tourist/businessman would also need to apply for a UK visa just to fly on this flight.

  10. You have forgotten to say, that Rwanda is a former Belgium colony, thus lots of Rwandans and native Rwandans live in Belgium.

    Brussels is the home of an important rwandan diaspora (about 10 000 rwandans live in Bxl) and between 25 000 & 30 000, in Belgium. Native Rwandans are not included.

    RwandAir has also opened an office in Amsterdam. Brussels Airport catchement area includes Netherlands (Rotterdam, Hague, Eindhoven), North of France (Lille), Luxembourg:

    20 millions of people live within 90 minutes of the Brussels airport: https://www.brusselsairport.be/uploads/media/default/0001/02/7c503fe70cb530b5d115a65de9052d4f47b20695.pdf

    At the begining, flights to London planned to be operated via Entebbe, but talks failed between Uganda and Rwanda. Adding Bxl, is not a stupid thing.

    Bookings on some flights from Brussels to Kigali are closed on RwandAir website. I think, it’s beacuse flights are almost full and RwandAir leaves remaining seats, for travels agencies (allotments). Try to book at least on 13Jul17 and 14Jul17, you will see.

    About SN-WB deal, from a Belgian forum

    sn26567 wrote: ↑
    18 Jun 2017, 21:08
    I asked Brussels Airlines about the future of their relations with RwandAir as a newcomer on the BRU-KGL route. Geert Sciot replied that:

    Brussels Airlines and RwandAir will continue their codeshare which is in place on the SN flights and has not been denounced by either party.
    Brussels Airlines might examine the possibility to codeshare on the RwandAir flights, but nothing has been decided yet.
    The Brussels Airlines schedules will remain unchanged (6 weekly flights), despite the increase of the offer due to the arrival of RwandAir.

    Furthermore, in addition to the point-to-point traffic,Brussels Airlines links Kigali to the whole European market (UK, France, Germany, etc.) and even North America. Therefore SN sees no need to reduce its own traffic to KGL.

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