Zimbabwe: RwandAir Gives Zimbabwe Wings to UK
By Isdore Guvamombe
After puffing off the runway at Robert Mugabe International Airport in Harare, the RwandAir plane slithered past silver-lined clouds, past boggy marshes and indeed past picturesque mountains and landed in Kigali.
There, the passengers changed into a bigger plane that took to Gatwick International Airport with a screeching halt. It was quite a bird!
RwandAir has become Zimbabwe’s partner in linking up with the United Kingdom at a time when the Government of Zimbabwe has upped its international engagement in general and specifically with the United Kingdom in line with the decision to rejoin the Commonwealth.
The airline is in partnership with the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority which has gone full throttle in persuading Zimbabweans in the diaspora to come back home and invest in business sectors in their broad totality.
RwandAir has become handy and is flying between Harare and London four times a week and is contemplating increasing frequency. In July 2017 the Government on behalf of the tourism and hospitality industry in Zimbabwe approached Rwanda Air to ply the skies of the country.
Flights from Harare to London are on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays departing at 0350 arriving in London at 1750 via Kigali its hub and Brussels in Belgium.
Sales supervisor Audrey Marase, who is currently with the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority in the United Kingdom, says the airline introduced the Sunday flight due to the increased demand.
“From Harare to Kigali we use CRJ 900 new generation aircraft then from Kigali to London we use our giant airbus A330-300.
“We have scheduled our flights in a manner that there is less than 2 hours connecting time in Kigali, to avoid long waits in transit.
“From London it departs at 7pm and arrives in Kigali at 7am then connects at 9.10am, arriving in Harare at 12 midday.”
Environment Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister Prisca Mupfumira who is currently in UK, says RwandAir has been critical in linking Zimbabwe to its diaspora community, which the Government is keen to bring on board in turning around the economy of the country.
“We want our diaspora community here to have access home and our engagement process needs connectivity. We thank RwandAir for becoming handy to our cause. Connectivity is very important in our process of re-engagement and economic turnaround under our new thrust, Zimbabwe is open for business.
“We want our diaspora community here to take advantage and come home and invest. We want everyone to come home and back freely,” she said.
After the 1994 genocide the government took several attempts to revive the former national carrier, Air Rwanda, that ceased operations during the genocide. Various private companies showed interest in partnering the government and Uganda-based SA Alliance ran the company from 1997 to 2000. After SA Alliance ceased operations, the government of Rwanda took over the operations and re-branded the airline.
RwandAir began operations on December 1, 2002, as the new national carrier for Rwanda under the name Rwandair Express (with passenger air transportation as the core activity).
In 2016, RwandAir received International Air Transport Association’s Safety Audit for Ground Operations. The airline began to expand regionally and by 2009 the network included Dar-es-Salaam, Nairobi, and domestic destinations such as Gisenyi. In March 2009, the airline registered a new trademark “RwandAir Ltd” which is its current operating name.
In June 2009, the airline officially re-branded from Rwandair Express to RwandAir, because the new name implies a large, serious airline, while the “Express” in the former name implied a small regional operation. In March 2017, RwandAir launched in flights to Harare and has since increased frequency between Harare and United Kingdom.