Ambitious African airline RwandAir has achieved a milestone today as it has reported that all its staff, both on the ground and in the air, have been vaccinated against COVID-19. It has become the first airline in Africa to reach this achievement and sets it on a path to begin a safe ramp-up of flights as it heads through 2021.
A safe and secure environment
Growing African airline RwandAir has today announced that all its employees have been vaccinated against COVID-19. Included in this tally are all its crew working in the air and on the ground, as well as non-airline staff working at Kigali International Airport. The airline becomes the first in Africa to achieve a 100% vaccination rate, which it says will position it as the ‘safest airline on the continent.’
In a statement today, the CEO of the airline, Yvonne Manzi Makolo, commented on the vaccination program, saying,
“Rwanda’s rapid roll-out of the first consignment of vaccines to arrive in the country prioritized all frontline workers, including RwandAir’s staff and crew. The vaccination programme has been designed to ensure we provide a safe and secure environment for travellers, both in the air and on the ground.”
Rwanda began its vaccine rollout on March 3rd, after 240,000 doses of COVAX, AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines arrived in the country. Priority was given to frontline workers, those aged over 65 and people with underlying health conditions. Since then, thousands more have arrived in the country, many brought by RwandAir ally Qatar Airways.
Makolo says she is looking forward to welcoming back customers to the airline, noting that safety remains its highest priority. As well as RwandAir staff and crew, other airline staff working out of Kigali International have all received their jabs.
Qatar nears deal for 49% stake
It’s been more than a year since the idea of Qatar Airways buying almost half of RwandAir surfaced. Since then, negotiations have been ongoing, and the deal is still not done. However, it is closing in on completion, as Rwanda’s Minister of Finance and Economic Planning Uzziel Ndagijimana told the Africa Report last week,
“We are in final negotiations; the company will be stronger with a larger fleet and more resources.”
While he declined to give a firm date on the conclusion of the deal, CEO Makolo believes it will be a positive step for the airline. In an interview with CNN, she said,
“Qatar taking 49% of RwandAir is big for Rwanda and for the airline. Rwanda is a very ambitious country, so having a strong partner like Qatar Airways to help the country develop economically, to set up a proper regional hub with the new airport that’s being built … will be able to position Rwanda in a very strategic way as … an international hub for the African continent and beyond.”
RwandAir has not been a profitable operation to date, even prior to COVID. A deal with Qatar is very much needed if it is to push forward in a strong position through 2021. Nevertheless, the drive to vaccinate staff along with other initiatives such as the trails of the IATA Travel Pass position the airline for the best chance of success in these difficult times.