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RwandAir Looking to Commence Cargo Flights Amid COVID-19 Scare
With regards to low passenger demand for air travel, RwandAir may soon opt for air-freight services to navigate the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic at a time when airlines are seeking new and creative ways to remain operational in the face of the pandemic.
This is according to multiple reports in Kigali that suggests that Rwanda’s flag carrier looks set to re-launch cargo services in the coming days with speculations on passenger planes being converted to cargo jets.
Confirming the widely speculated plan, the airline’s CEO Yvonne Manzi Makolo said, “We are working on that. But we won’t convert passenger planes to cargo freighters. We’ll use the available space to transport cargo shipments.” According to The New Times.
Details of the ongoing development are expected to be unveiled in the coming days and it is likely that RwandAir may be banking on its new Airbus A330neo that has significant belly-capacity to operate the cargo services.
Cargo services have been relatively low in Rwanda with 2016 data showing Kigali International Airport handling less than 20,000 metric tons of cargo. However, RwandAir may still opt for air-freight to transport essential goods and supply chain that may not be produced locally while seeking international markets for exporting local produce.
The airline may also operate the cargo services to transport critical medical supplies and testing kits with the country seeking to replenish its medical supplies to combat the current COVID-19 crisis.
China Eastern also modified its two Airbus A330s by taking most of the economy class seats out to transport medical supplies operating from China to Europe. In a more adverse approach, airlines like Cathay Pacific, Qatar Airways and American Airlines have gone head and converted their passenger jets to operate scheduled cargo services to navigate the crisis. Smaller airlines such as Aegean Airlines have also converted aircraft to cargo jets as they respond to the crisis.
On March 20, RwandaAir halted its international routes for 30 days with regards to a government directive banning all incoming and outgoing flights to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
“We are confident the temporary suspension of our operations will help to reduce the spread of coronavirus,” said a RwandAir spokeswoman.
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