Passengers waiting for connecting flights at Kigali International airport
Passengers waiting for connecting flights at Kigali International airport

Unlike in other airports around the world, passengers waiting for a flight at Kigali international airport enjoy comfort-because there are more seats available.

Kigali International airport has this year been ranked among Africa’s top three airports with high number of seats.

The rankings made by ForwardKeys– a company that predicts future travel patterns by crunching and analyzing booking transactions placed Kigali international airport in 3rd position.

The first and second airports in terms of capacity are Nairobi Jomo Kenyatta International Airport and Kilimanjaro airport-both in Kenya and Tanzania.

ForwardKeys revealed a growth of 11.2% in East Africa compared with the same period last year.

“We are seeing a tale of two Africas, with North African countries suffering from political instability and terror activities and Sub Saharan African countries powering ahead, with Ethiopia up 9.6%, Tanzania up 10.6%, Mauritius up 11.6% and Kenya up 14.9%. South Africa is up 11.4%,” said Olivier Jager, CEO of ForwardKeys.

The Spain-based company says Africa registered 5.6% growth, but countries like Algeria, Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia saw little growth or even a decline.

Jager added that by looking ahead to the remainder of the year, “the picture is highly encouraging for East Africa.”

According to the report, International bookings for travel to East African countries will until December this year increase by 17.3% ahead of where they were at this time last year.

The top seven origin markets are India, USA and Germany, France, the Netherlands, UK and South Africa.

India tops this list with 34%, followed by Germany and USA with 21% each. France and The Netherlands contribute 16.1% and 16.6% respectively while UK at 13.2%.

The highest African market is South Africa with 9.4%.

Looking at international capacity from the 3rd quarter of last year to the 2nd, 3rd and projected 2nd quarter of next year, Nairobi grew by 0% and 2% respectively, while Kigali International Airport growth stood at 5% and 4% respectively.

Tanzania’s Kilimanjaro made the highest growth with 11% and 20% respectively.

Based on the capacity for flights within East Africa in the last quarter of 2015 and second quarter of 2016, Nairobi grew by 0% and 2% while Kilimandjaro growth was 6% and 14% respectively. Kigali made 13% and 5% growth.

The growth of Kigali international airport is justified by Rwanda’s  drive to become a conference hub. This year, a number of important conferences were hosted in Kigali, including the 27th African Union general assembly, Global Africa Investment Summit, and Forum for Agriculture Research in Africa(FARA).

The country increased facilities to host the summit with the most known; 5 star Radisson Blu Hotel and Kigali Convention Centre.

View of Kigali International airport
View of Kigali International airport

More credits around the corner

This data has been released ahead of AviaDev- a new airline route development conference and AHIF- Africa’s highest profile hotel investment conference, due to be hosted by Rwanda from October 4-6.

Jonathan Worsley, Chairman of Bench Events, which is organising AHIF and AviaDev, said; “We are seeing unprecedented interest in the AHIF AviaDev combination, with over twenty airlines signing up to talk about new air routes, with global CEOs of the world’s biggest hotel companies present to discuss their plans for Africa and with government ministers keen to attract inward investment; one has to ask: “Why is there such serious interest?” These highly encouraging booking figures explain it.”

He added that If what is happening in Rwanda becomes a yardstick against which other East African countries measure themselves, “I would expect this strong growth to continue. There, a new airport is under construction 25km outside Kigali, with the ability to cater for 4.5 million passengers a year, seven times today’s traffic.”

Early this month, Rwanda signed a major deal with a Portuguese investor to begin construction of  Bugesera International Airport (BIA) project worth $818 million.

The deal, a joint venture between Rwanda acting through Aviation Travel Logistics Holdings Limited (ATL), was signed with Mota-Engil, Engenharia e Construção África, S.A.

The project has so far $418 million of initial investment and is scheduled for completion by December 2018 in its first phase, which will deliver a facility with a capacity to receive 1.7 million passengers every year.

Upon completion of this phase, extension works will be undertaken, to upgrade the capacity to 4.5 million passengers annually.

Meanwhile, Rwanda invested $17.8m in extension of Kigali International Airport which has seen additional two more escalators, three lifts, an expanded VIP lounge; arrival and departure lounges as well as a second conveyor belt added to the country’s old airport.

In 2014, the airport was ranked among the top ten best national airports in Africa. With extension works, Tonny Barigye, Public Relations Officer of Rwanda Civil Aviation Authority said the number of passengers has increased drastically.

“With renovation, the airport can now accommodate 1.5m passengers annually,” he said.

With the presence of international airlines such as Qatar Airways, Turkish Airlines Kenya Airways, Ethiopian Airlines, KLM, and SN Brussels, the upgrading of Kigali International Airport has seen flight frequencies jumped from 60 to 400 weekly.




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