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Rwanda opens airport for airlines worldwide return to the skies

Rwanda opens airport for airlines worldwide return to the skies

As countries around the globe continue to grapple with the Covid-19 pandemic, the hard-hit air travel industry is slowly resuming as select airlines worldwide return to the skies.

Countries are slowly reopening their rooms, enabling commercial airlines to resume operations, the majority of which had suspended flights three months ago.

Rwanda announced last week the opening of its airspace, allowing all airlines to kick off operations by August 1 under the Ministry of Health’s minimum health-safety measures.

But are airlines able to fly into Kigali? If so, which airlines will be reopening and when will they open again?

The operations manager, Satguru Travels Rwanda office, Swapnil Karkhile, has told The New Times they are slowly receiving updates from airlines rescheduling their travel plans.

“We’ve got updates from a few airlines, but we’re waiting for them all,” he said, pointing out KLM, Qatar Airways, Ethiopian Airlines, and Brussels Airlines.

Here’s how different airlines plan to fly to Kigali

Ethiopian (1 Aug.)

According to Satguru officials, Ethiopian Airlines, Africa’s largest airline, is set to start flights to and from Kigali on August 1, operating at least hourly as has been the case. On 8 July last week, Ethiopian Airlines resumed suspended flights and is slowly adding more flights. As of last week, the carrier has now reached 42 destinations.

The airline says it has improved the cabin environment cleaning and disinfection at each aircraft, promising health and hygiene during the travel time of passengers.

Brussels (2 Aug.)

Brussels Airlines, Belgium ‘s biggest flag carrier and airline, announced on May 25 that it will finally resume commercial flights to various destinations including Kigali.

On 24 March the carrier of the Lufthansa Group grounded its entire fleet and suspended all commercial passenger operations due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

Brussels will start flights to Kigali on August 2, initially operating twice a week, according to Coline Everard, Rwanda’s country manager at Brussels Airlines in Rwanda.

Nevertheless, Everard said the travel schedule is subject to changes depending on requests.

Qatar (3 Aug.)

Qatar Airways, the world’s largest airline, plans to resume flights to Kigali on August 3, flying three times a week (Monday, Wednesday, and Friday), Satguru reported.

The airline had previously conducted regular flights to Kigali but Qatar Airways is declining flights with the effect of the pandemic as demand for air travel has diminished.

Like some airlines, Qatar Airways says it offers greater flexibility, allowing its passengers to freely change their travel date or destination as often as they may need.

“We are balancing our passengers’ needs with the operational difficulties that we face as a result of entry restrictions placed by a number of countries,” noted the airline, which agreed to buy a stake in RwandAir.

Qatar Airways chief executive Akbar Al-Baker told Al Jazeera a couple of weeks ago that social distancing is really not going to be possible in an aeroplane. “So if authorities decide to enforce that on commercial flights it would be an enormous impact on our airline’s operating costs.”

“For example, if I implement social distancing by holding one passenger seat empty, I would only hold 50% of the load factor,” he said.

“If I’m even more aggressive, as some countries might require us to do, even keeping one row empty behind a passenger, I’m only going to carry 30% of an aircraft’s capacity,” he added.

Al-Baker pointed out that it would mean that airlines like his would have to put up more than 300 per cent of the ticket price to cover the expense of my operations, which is very difficult to achieve.

KLM (September 6)

KLM Royal Dutch Airlines is due to resume flight operations to Kigali on 6 August, after the pandemic had forced the carrier to suspend intercontinental operations.

KLM is among Europe’s hardest-hit airlines.

On Monday, July 13, the European Commission said it had accepted the €3.4 billion ($3.85 billion) loan package the Dutch government had agreed last month to the airline.

Following months of struggle with France over the role that each country should play in a coronavirus rescue deal, the Netherlands said it would support Air France-KLM ‘s Dutch arm with € 2.4 billion in guaranteed bank loans and a €1 billion direct loan.

This will allow the airline to return to the sky, and weather the storm.

Satguru officials say the schedules are subject to change, depending on whether airlines have sufficient passenger load to carry.

“We don’t expect the company to return to normal anytime soon,” noted Karkhile, adding that the passengers are still very anxious to fly in the middle of Covid-19.

Even when the airlines resume, customers that have already made reservations will be given priority.

Satguru Rwanda reports that they had around 1,000 existing reservations for Kigali-based travellers whose plans were interrupted by the pandemic.

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