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Why Qatar, RwandAir deal is likely to hurt Kenya Airways

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RwandAir is seeking bigger regional market share in its partnership with Qatar Airways. FILE PHOTO

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Summary

  • Qatar Airways is investing Sh131 billion at the new Rwandan Airport making it one of the largest ports in East Africa as it positions itself to become a regional hub, a status currently held by JKIA.
  • Qatar will make Rwanda its African operation centre where passengers from other African countries can connect flights to Europe or even the US using either Qatar Airways or RwandAir.
  • The move implies that passengers from Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda who would travel to Nairobi or Addis for trans-Atlantic flights, will opt to use RwandAir or Qatar to travel to countries like the US.

The partnership between Qatar Airways and RwandAir is set to reshape the regional airspace with carriers such as Ethiopian and Kenya Airways staring at a possible loss of transiting passengers.

The new partnership, which comes at a time when Rwanda and Qatar are at an advanced stage to have the latter take a majority stake at the East African carrier as well as its new airport, will see passengers travelling in either of the carriers connect flights from their hubs in Kigali of Doha.

The move implies that passengers from Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda who would travel to Nairobi or Addis for trans-Atlantic flights, will opt to use RwandAir or Qatar to travel to countries like the US.

Jomo Kenyatta International Airport is a major transit hub for passengers travelling to countries such as the US.

“This partnership cements our commitment to giving travellers the widest choice of destinations, while providing a seamless, high quality travel experience, which is the goal of both Qatar Airways and RwandAir,” said Akbar Al-Baker, Qatar Airways Group chief executive.

“Africa is a hugely important market for us and this latest partnership will help support the recovery of international air travel and offer unrivalled connectivity to and from a number of new African destinations.”

The interline agreement will give customers access to the networks of both airlines, providing “a seamless travel experience and enhanced customer service”.

Customers can pick and choose from over 160 destinations in the combined networks of both airlines, which are perfectly connected via their home main hubs.

The airline’s customers will be able to connect through Hamad International Airport (HIA) in Doha to access Qatar Airways’ destinations on every continent, from Paris to Washington, Delhi to Hong Kong and many more.

“We are really excited to be opening up more of the world to our customers through the new interline agreement with Qatar Airways,” Yvonne Makolo, RwandAir CEO

“Delivering excellent customer experience is key for us and we know that any traveller flying with Qatar Airways or RwandAir, as part of the agreement, will continue to receive the same unrivalled level of service they’re used to from both airlines.”

African carriers, Including Kenya Airways should have a reason to worry as Qatar Airlines is likely to charge cheaply on tickets once its deal with Rwanda goes through. This will force regional airlines to lower their cost in order to remain competitive.

European and American carriers have had problems with Middle Eastern carriers, Qatar included, over the heavy subsidy that they get from their respective countries, making them to charge lower fares compared with other countries.

Qatar will make Rwanda its African operation centre where passengers from other African countries can connect flights to Europe or even the US using either Qatar Airways or RwandAir without necessarily having to connect from their headquarters in Doha.

Qatar Airways is investing Sh131 billion at the new Rwandan Airport making it one of the largest ports in East Africa as it positions itself to become a regional hub, a status currently held by JKIA.

The move follows a deal between Kigali and Doha, which will see the Qatari government own a stake of 60 percent at the new facility.

The partnership will involve building, owning, and operating of the new Bugesera International Airport as it seeks to expand its capacity to seven million passengers a year.

The deal was delayed by emergence of Covid-19 last year but both airlines have given an undertaking of completing the deal soon.