Even with the recent addition of Royal Air Maroc, the oneworld route network has a big hole in Africa, particularly in southern Africa. Beyond services from Qatar Airways and limited services from British Airways, Iberia, and Qantas, the alliance does not offer connectivity to key cities in Africa, undermining its claim to be a leading global alliance.
That could change if a bid from RwandAir to join the alliance is successful. RwandAir is based in Kigali (KGL) and operates to 28 countries, including more than 20 in Africa.
Qatar Airways appears to be playing a key role in paving the way for RwandAir to join oneworld. Speaking at an aviation summit in Kigali this week, Akbar Al Baker, the CEO of Qatar Airways, promised:
« We will do everything within our ability to bring them to the standard to be ready to join as a full member or an associate member.»
Al Baker is currently the Chair of oneworld and has greatly increased his airline’s ties to the alliance, adding several new codeshare relationships with other members, including American Airlines. Al Baker added:
« We saw this potential in the place that is right in the center of Africa, and the relationship they have with the state of Qatar, I found that this is the right place. This is about confidence and relationship, economic interest for both countries with each and this is what we are going to do. »
While that sounds like a more bilateral relationship, Qatar Airways’ investments in other oneworld members will make RwandAir’s accession more likely. Al Baker also indicated that Qatar Airways will offer training to current and future RwandAir pilots, thus creating « a center of excellence for aviation in Africa » in Rwanda.
Meanwhile, Rwandair CEO, Yvonne Makolo focused on the value proposition alliance membership would add to its customers:
« Joining Oneworld will help us gradually improve our products and services and what we are offering to our passengers. »
At press time, no formal announcement from oneworld has been made.
RwandAir intends to join oneworld and has the backing of Qatar Airways. While the NCI (new carrier integration) process is likely many months away, the addition of RwandAir would fill an important hole in the oneworld route map.
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