Category Archives: New York

RwandAir applies for US Flights

RwandAir, which is 99% owned by the Government of Rwanda, plans to start US flights, by applying to the US Department of Transportation for the right to fly passengers and cargo between Kigali and JFK airport (New York) from August 2018 using Airbus A330.

The government has designated RwandAir as its international services carrier and the application for US flights also has letters of support from the Rwanda Embassy in Washington, the Rwanda Minister of Finance who writes that the government has supported the airline since its inception in 2002 and support continues to be budgeted for each year.

The application includes three years of audited financial statements. For 2016, the airline’s revenue was $99 million (and this has gone up from $64 million in 2013). Expenses in 2016 included direct expenses of $115 million, staff of $11 million, and finance costs of $15 million –  for a loss before tax of $54 million that was then offset by a government grant of $53 million. Other government grants are cited including $56 million in 2015 and a $28 million in 2014. The application notes that the airline has no financial projections for the first twelve months of operation on the proposed US flights route and requests exemption from providing that (as have been granted to other carriers)

The RwandAir balance sheet at the time (June 2016) was $238 million – but this was before the arrival of new aircraft in an expansion program that included two Airbus A330, and 4 Boeing 737 next generation (NG).  The fleet is now 2 A330, 2 737-800, 2 CRJ-900 and a Bombardier Q400, and RwandAir also leases 3 other Boeing 737 and another Q400. By the end of  2017, RwandAir plans to have 18 aircraft which will include four more  Airbus A330’s.

RwandAir flies to 19 destinations but plans to add China, Germany, and the US flights. Plans to fly to Britain and India are included in the application, and these flights have already started in 2017. RwandAir has codeshare partnerships with Turkish, SN Brussels, Ethiopian, South African, Proflight (Zambia) and Precision (Tanzania) airlines and the application also lists technical and maintenance support partners for their aircraft including Lufthansa for the Airbus A330 and Ethiopian for the B737 NG.

RwandAir has only had one fatal incident; with a wet-leased Jetlink Kenya plane that hit a terminal building while taxiing out of Kigali in 2009 – it resulted in one fatality. After this, they canceled the wet-lease and invested in their own fleet

A good day in New York, not Nairobi

Paul Tergat of Kenya breaks the tape just ahead of South Africa’s Hendrick Ramaala, winning the closest ever New York City Marathon

But Kenyan sports stars don’t get respect in Kenya, when pitted against English Soccer. The live showing of the New York marathon unfortunately coincided with the broadcast of two English premiership games. At a local Nairobi bar, we were able to watch the finish of the women’s marathon, which coincided with half time of the Manchester United/Chelsea game, but the bar TV went back to the second half of the soccer match, meaning we were not able to watch the thrilling conclusion of the men’s marathon.

Christmas Holiday
I visited the tourism expo at Sarit Center to find a Christmas holiday package at the coast, and I also learned that:
all most Mombasa hotels are fully booked for the Christmas – New Year week.
– High season begins just after December 20, and hotel charges will be about double what they usually are, until April 2006.
– Packages are still available up till mid-December such as:
(i) Indian Ocean Beach Club: 2 nights at half board, including return flight (Kenya Airways: Nairobi – Mombasa – Nairobi) for Kshs. 16,680 per person ($230) valid up to December 20
(ii) Turtle Bay Beach Club: weekend package i.e. 2/12 – 4/12 or 9/12 – 11/12 including return flight (Nairobi – Malindi – Nairobi on Air Kenya) for Kshs. 18,550 ($255)

Other accommodation offers which impressed me were from Club Le Soleil and Kenya Bay Beach Hotel. I gave emphasis was to air packages because the road to Mombasa (I’m told) continues to be a motoring nightmare (and national shame) – someone told me he recently drove from Nairobi to Mombasa in a reasonable 7 hours (but that the final 50 km stretch from Mariakani to Mombasa took up two hours because the road was so bad).

Anyway, I don’t feel like driving, and I am comfortable getting around Mombasa by matatu, so my focus was on air travel to the Coast, not by car.

More debit cards
Another bank that has added debit cards is National Bank of Kenya (NBK) which launched a visa-electron branded card at the end of October. This was a week before KCB and Southern Credit launched theirs.

Land – uncertain returns:
Landowners such as the National Social Security Fund continue to have problems disposing of prime parcels of land partly due to the uncertainty over land titles, a government notice to recall undeveloped land, and the huge cost of developing commercial land within the city e.g. to put up a modern building in the city with excellent parking, amenities and security would cost over 1 billion shillings today.

Since February when the NSSF first tried to sell several prime undeveloped plots they have only sold a few including 50 acres near Karen and 2.5 acres in Upper Hill, while the rest were re-advertised last week.

Hotel wars
There was a mishap with a Kenya Airways international flight over the weekend, and the plane returned to Nairobi for a check. Once again, the airline checked passengers into the new Panari hotel, near the airport, and not at the traditional airline hotels in downtown Nairobi.

Block shares
After CDC (UK) sold off 5% of the Housing Finance, another investor (likely to be NSSF) has put up 2.75 million shares of KPLC – aiming to raise over 430 million shillings from the Nairobi Stock Exchange.