RwandAir CEO John Mirenge

Competition between Rwanda’s national carrier, RwandAir, and new airlines plying the Kigali route is set to intensify with the former vowing to defy the competition posed by the new entrants.

The list of new entrants is expected to grow exponentially with five major carriers poised to enter the Rwandan market in the course of this year.

Apart from old timers like Kenya Airways, Ethiopian and Brussels Airlines, KLM has launched five flights a week.

South African Airways resumed business in the country recently with three flights a week, while Qatar Airways plans to fly between Kigali and Doha, Qatar six times a week from March this year.

RwandAir Chief Executive Officer, John Mirenge told Business Times that they are ready for the competition.

“You will have to keep in mind the fact that most of the carriers coming to Kigali have been in this business for a long time. We have to measure up and surpass our customer expectations in terms of our service delivery,” Mirege explained.

“New entrants are very much welcome. It is the only way we will grow the air travel market in this country. Competition is healthy as it gives passengers options. It puts the burden on operators to work hard and be smart to retain customers,” he noted.

Mirenge disclosed that Kigali International Airport (KIA) last year handled over 320, 000 passengers  with 50 per cent preferring to travel using RwandAir.

“Our passenger numbers in January 2010 stood at 6,000, but the number has more than doubled to 13, 000 last January. In January this year, we had 25, 000 passengers, a sharp increase over the same period last year,” he added.

Industry experts say airline business is not a monopoly and needs partnerships.

“Of course as the home airline, we are open and willing to enter into meaningful and mutually benefiting partnerships with other carriers. But such agreements must offer tangible benefits to partners involved,” he insisted.

From two brand new Boeing Sky Interior aircraft, the first on the continent, four new African routes, Dream Miles – a mile based frequent flier programme to the more recently launched online booking with credit card payment facilities, Mirenge affirms these are not extras but rather basic air traveller expectations.

The carrier of Rwanda flag becomes the first local organisation in Rwanda to enter into the e-commerce retail market to distribute its products.

By Saul Butera, The New Times

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