Airbus A330 Neos are becoming more popular in East Africa, with RwandAir and Uganda Airlines operating the aircraft.
Rwanda’s national carrier will be taking delivery of two A330-900 Neos next year for flights to the US and Asia. Uganda has signed a deal for the delivery of two of the planes.
RwandAir currently operates two baseline A330s — a -300 and -200 — on rotation to Europe and Mumbai. The airline has been positioning itself to add New York and Guangzhou to its route network, making additional aircraft necessary.
The Uganda Airlines project team justified the choice of the A330-800 Neo, for which it is so far the sole customer.
While defending the carrier’s application for a licence before the Uganda Civil Aviation Authority’s Air Services Licensing Committee last week, Uganda Airlines chief executive Ephraim Bagenda was asked to respond to media reports that had described the aircraft as “unwanted.”
Mr Bagenda said the A330-800 Neo was only slightly different from the larger A330-900 Neo and therefore had a high level of commonality with both the -900 and baseline A330-200.
“It only has a shorter fuselage, otherwise it has the same engines and avionics as the -900 Neo which a neighbouring airline will be putting into service next year,” he said.
Analysts say the -800 Neo has not gained traction in the larger mature markets because they are driven more by volume than range, which is the major attraction to the type by operators such as Uganda Airlines and RwandAir.
Also, many of these operators already have young fleets of the baseline A330, which is still very competitive.
By MICHAEL WAKABI