RwandAir Will Fly to the U.S. Starting This Summer, But Not From Rwanda

Kenya Airways just launched new Nairobi – New York JFK service a couple of months ago and already they plan to scale back to five times a week at least for winter.

Nonetheless RwandAir is moving forward with service to the U.S. They aren’t quite sure yet whether that will be Newark or New York JFK. They’ll use an Airbus A330neo for the route that offers flat beds in business class and premium economy. But the flights won’t be New York – Kigali. Instead they’re going to fly from Accra, Ghana.

  • The flight will be Kigali – Accra – New York.
  • So Kigali still had to be inspected by the FAA, which has been accomplished. FAA technical review is also complete.
  • And they have permission from the US Department of Transportation
  • But are awaiting final FAA approval. If that doesn’t come before March their hoped-for June launch of the flight will push back.

Currently Kigali – New York JFK is logically serviced one-stop via Doha (Qatar) and Nairobi (Kenya Airways), while Newark generally involves double-connecting.

Flying via Accra they believe they can feed traffic from both East Africa (where the long haul flight originates) and West Africa (since it’s a logical connecting point).

Currently Delta flies Accra – New York JFK five times weekly and South African Airways flies Accra – Washington Dulles four times weekly.

I’m skeptical of the flight, since the aim is the leisure and conference markets and bringing people home to Rwanda. While Rwanda relies heavily on tourism tourist airfares tend to be lower yielding.

I’m rooting for this flight’s success — and the success of RwandAir CEO Yvonne Manzi Makolo, one of the very few women currently running an airline. She justifies the flight as offering an alternative airline and connecting point to Kenya Airways (Nairobi) and Ethiopian (Addis Ababa) and believes “there is enough market for all of us” even though Kenya Airways has struggled with their new service.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. If they were part of an alliance — or if I could use miles — I’d jump on this flight. Starting a safari with a gorilla trek in Rwanda is ideal! And I’ve had good experiences on RwandAir.

  2. One popular one-stop routing to Rwanda: EWR-BRU on UA, BRU-KGL on Brussels Airlines. I flew IAD-BRU-KGL on Brussels metal last year; connections and hard/soft product were fine.

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