RwandAir Is Adding Flights To Guangzhou… Via Mumbai

RwandAir is an airline that probably interests me more than it should, but for some reason I just find their little operation fascinating. They have two A330s with a fantastic business class product. They recently started flying to London and Brussels, though apparently didn’t do all of their homework, because they had some issues with the flight. Perhaps coolest/craziest of all, this small East African airline with a dozen planes wants to start service to New York this year (I’m sure Kenya Airways adding daily 787 flights to New York will only encourage them more).

For over a year now RwandAir has been saying that they want to add flights to both Guangzhou and New York. I figured the odds of either of those routes happening is extremely slim. Maybe they could operate them short term for prestige, but to actually operate either of those routes profitably seems like a long shot.

Well, interestingly RwandAir is one step closer to adding flights to Guangzhou. The New Times reports that Rwanda’s transport minister has announced that RwandAir plans to launch flights to Guangzhou in May 2018. I know my first thought was “but they only have two A330s, and they use those to fly to Brussels and Geneva, and sometimes to fly to Dubai. Where will they get their planes from?”

Well, RwandAir plans to operate their new flight to Guangzhou via Mumbai. RwandAir presently flies 4x weekly from Kigali to Mumbai using a 737, and they plan to operate the Guangzhou flight as a tag. It remains to be seen whether all 4x weekly flights will continue to Guangzhou, or only select flights. Long term the airline is apparently considering operating the route nonstop.

My first thought was that this is a very long flight on a 737. The nonstop distance from Kigali to Guangzhou is about 5,800 miles, while the Kigali to Mumbai flight is 3,200 miles, and the Mumbai to Guangzhou flight is 2,600 miles. On the plus side, Mumbai is basically on the way. On the down side, this will be a very long flight on a 737 (which I assume RwandAir is using for the flight due to aircraft availability, though it hasn’t been stated one way or another).

The economics of the route are interesting. Presumably there’s decent demand between Kigali and Mumbai, or else the airline wouldn’t operate the route. Given that many people will be getting off in Mumbai, RwandAir must think there’s sizable demand between Mumbai and Guangzhou.

Surprisingly it seems that no other airline operates the route nonstop, so who knows, maybe they could pick up some traffic in the market.

While RwandAir notes that they hope this flight will be useful for destinations in Africa beyond Rwanda, the issue remains that RwandAir is a very small airline. They don’t have dozens of flights arriving in Kigali where a connection on this flight would work, but much more likely just a few flights.

I’ll be curious to see how this works out, and even more curious if RwandAir follow through on their New York plans. For now you can count me out for this 5,800 mile journey on a 737, though.

What do you make of RwandAir’s Kigali to Mumbai to Guangzhou route idea?

Comments

  1. COPA Airlines offer a similarly titanic 737 routing: YYZ-PTY-EZE, which is~5700 miles and over 12 hours, excluding stopover. I also believe that PTY-EZE was the longest 737 route until the GOL flights to Florida.

  2. This flight is all about the trader traffic from CAN to sub-saharan Africa. Running it with a 737 is going to severely limit the usual excess baggage that most traders pay/require for bringing goods back to Africa. I would imagine that an A330 would be better utilized on KGL-CAN nonstop for the payload abilities. But who knows, maybe that’s the next step after they test the waters.

  3. A Guangzhou-Mumbai flight would definitely do well considering the lack of any direct options currently. If priced well, this will capture the mid/low-tier business market in Mumbai. There are a LOT of SME entrepreneurs in Mumbai that would jump on to this flight.

  4. For those not in the know, why would you consider such a long flight to be undesirable due to its operation by a 737? Simply the standard recliners? Or something else specific about the narrow body?

  5. This route will be probably do fine. There is huge demand from India/Pak/Bangla to China. Just look at China Eastern / China southern presence in South Asia. Additionally, there is HUGE investment in East Africa via means of South and East Asia, so maybe Rwandair has corporate clients who have demanded a route.

  6. In their application for US flight rights last year, RwandAir stated that they would acquire four more Airbus A330’s and also planned to add China and Germany flights to go with the new India and Britain ones.

  7. Guangzhou has over 300,000 population of African origin, this is surely a huge demand to travel, also the fact that no flight is there between Bombay and Guangzhou will make this route indeed more interesting, since most will choose to either fly via BKK or HKG (which is convenient nonetheless)

  8. My experience flying RwandAir was underwhelming and overpriced. Do yourself a favor and skip it all together.

  9. “For now you can count me out for this 5,800 mile journey on a 737, though.” But what if they refit the 737 with 1-1 suites in F?? You would be the first person salivating

  10. Rwandair has been threatening this route since at least 2015. They have had a billboard at Entebbe Airport (on the approach road next to the Protea Hotel) for the last 2+ years advertising “Guangzhou via Mumbai on our new Airbus 330”. I am not holding my breath.

  11. Also, their Mumbai route seems to be primarily catering to the India-Southern Africa traffic which is a huge market that strangely enough is not being served at all with direct flights since both SAA and Jet Airways pulled out of the route in the last few years (and Air India cut their flights almost 20 years ago). The local O&D to Kigali is negligible and WB is invariably cheaper than the KQ/ET/EK/EY/QR flights that are the other primary options to the region.

  12. ET used to do a similar routing- ADD-DEL-CAN, although I don’t think they had 5th freedom rights in the DEL-CAN sector. I got the return flight once getting on at DEL to go to ADD, was an awful experience; like walking into the night of the living dead with people sprawled out asleep all over the plane and the luggage bins rammed full of DVD players and duty free. Not forgetting the legendary (in)hospitality of the ET crew

  13. @Sean M – I glance at the comments made, but always read yours. You sir are a wealth of information. Thanks for your contributions.

  14. The Chinese are heavily investing in African countries. I actually understand why they are starting this route. Guangzhou is a very business oriented city and with the rise of Chinese investment in Africa, I’m sure that the businessmen appreciate having easier access to an otherwise underserved market. I’m sure there will be more flights from China to Africa, and maybe non-stop.

  15. @Stuart Gorman – I don’t believe ET ever operated from DEL-CAN. The ADD-CAN flight always ran via BKK before it went nonstop. The ET fifth freedom flights between India and China were initially ADD-BOM-PEK, then ADD-DEL-PEK and finally ADD-DEL-HGH.

  16. Currently WB aircraft sits in Mumbai about 14hrs on ground so that’s a smart idea to extend to CAN to fully utilize the aircraft. They want to arrive in/depart from Kigali just to enable good connection to/from rest of Africa.

  17. I agree with Lucky. I definitely did not choose the option of flying across the Pacific in a 737 with Delta. A flight from Seattle to Hong Kong on that airplane would not be comfortable. Also, that comes with connections that originates from New York. I would probably be super irritated and tired. I ended up choosing another flight on another airline that would be more direct and more comfortable on a bigger airplane.

  18. @ Stanley
    I think you will find that Delta flies an A330 from Seattle to Hongkong, not a 737.
    The 737 doesn’t have the range to do a 14 hour flight!!

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