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At exactly 4:20pm local time the largest aircraft in RwandAir’s fleet ‘Umurage’ A330-300 series touched down at Kigali International Airport in spectacular fashion with a water salute and excitement from spectators, yesterday.

The brand new aircraft comes in as number 11 in the national carrier’s fleet that has been growing in the past 5 years.

It is expected to boost RwandAir’s capacity to expand its wings and compete globally, James Musoni, the Minister for Infrastructure said, yesterday, while receiving the aircraft.

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« The new aircraft is a manifestation of the good and visionary leadership of President Paul Kagame and RwandAir’s commitment to continue growing, » Musoni said, adding that Government will continue supporting the national carrier because of the economies of scale that come with a strong aviation industry.

The Airbus 330-300 is RwandAir’s third acquisition in less than three months.

John Mirenge, the airline’s Chief Executive Officer, said the 274-seater, wide-bodied aircraft is the first of its kind in East Africa, adding that the plane enhances the capacity of Africa’s fastest growing airline to expand its footprint across the globe.

« It is yet another milestone that will strengthen our capacity to spread our wings across Africa and beyond, » he said, adding that the airline is currently positioning itself to be the ‘most efficient and reliable’ airline in the region.

The new aircraft comes with a cargo capacity of more than 134 metric tonnes, which according to Mirenge, will help boost the export industry.

Our exporters can now be assured of transport to any of our destinations, he noted.

About A330-300

The new airline is cost-effective, highly efficient, offering flexibility and optimised performance, making it a perfect choice for travellers. It also offers more personal space and modern long-haul comfort and is fitted with 18-inch wide seats in the economy class, and the latest in-flight entertainment, including video-on-demand, and mobile phone and email connectivity via satellite. The aircraft remains the preferred choice for over 100 airlines worldwide.

The A330 type of aircraft has an operational reliability of 99.4 percent and boasts efficiency for all market segments.

Airbus commits more support

Meanwhile, Marino Modena, the Airbus Asset Management Marketing Director for Africa, Europe and Asia Pacific, said the new aircraft is the right tool to expand the RwandAir network into the long-haul markets, providing the backbone of Rwanda’s « economic growth.

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« Rwanda and RwandAir are a great example of what can be achieved with discipline, enthusiasm and vision; we are obviously delighted to strengthen our partnership with RwandAir by providing it with safe, modern, and efficient aircraft like the new state of the art Airbus A330-300, » he said.

He added that the manufacturer is certain it will enable RwandAir to provide reliable, appealing and cost-effective services.

The RwandAir A330 cabin is one of the most modern and appealing not only in Africa but around the world, fitted with the latest technology such as Wi-Fi, mood lighting in all the three classes and latest generation video on demand in the entire cabin.

This efficiency and comfort will facilitate trade and tourism and enable vital economic development for the country, officials said.

RwandAir recently acquired Africa’s first Boeing 737-800 Next Generation (Kalisimbi), which is equipped with in-flight connectivity on a line-fit programme, including Wi-Fi. Earlier, in September, the national carrier also acquired East Africa’s first Airbus 330-200, popularly known as Ubumwe.

In December, last year, RwandAir signed a lease agreement with Aircraft Lease Corporation, an American-based lessor, to acquire two new Boeing 737-800 Next Generation planes, one of which has already been delivered, while the second is expected in May next year.

Ensuring safety

RwandAir obtained its ISAGO IATA safety audit for ground operations certification last month. It is also IOSA certified, confirming that its operational management and control systems meet international civil aviation safety and other standards.

The airline flies to 19 destinations – Cotonou, Abidjan, Nairobi, Entebbe, Mombasa, Bujumbura, Lusaka, Juba, Douala, Dar es Salaam, Kilimanjaro, Cotonou, Johannesburg, Dubai, Lagos, Libreville and Brazzaville. It is set to open routes to Harare in Zimbabwe, and Mumbai, India soon.

RwandAir projects to ferry more than three million passengers annually in the next five years, from 500,000 travellers presently.