Air Djibouti seeks to revive its lost glory with plans to venture into the Rwandan market from June 2018 to boost its operations in East Africa.
Popularly known as Red Sea Airlines, the flag carrier of Djibouti, which was previously under the wings of Air France, plans to top its destination tally to 11 with the proposed Kigali route launch.
The national carrier was believed took its first flight in 1963 and in 2002 all operations ceased because of the airline being declared bankrupt despite state funding. Djibouti’s Red sea airlines was formed in April 1971 after its independence to rival Air Somalie (founded by Air France) after it took over the former Air Djibouti founded in 1963.
In 2015, the government sought to establish the country as a regional logistics and commercial hub for trade in East Africa and chose to relaunch the airline as part of this plan. The airline was relaunched with a Fokker 27 freighter wet-leased from Kenya’s Astral Aviation. At first it was solely a cargo airline but in 2016 passenger services were included.
There have been ongoing bilateral meetings between Rwanda and Djibouti that is aimed at propelling the African Union open skylines agenda as part of implementing the 2060 continental development agenda. As chairman of the African Union, Rwandan President Paul Kagame confirmed his commitment to work with Djibouti as he emphasized the need for African leaders to work together for the good of the continent.
According to Issa Goudi Hadji, Air Djibouti’s Station Manager, “We have had several meetings over this agenda and we are going to start operations in Kigali within one month. There is a very strong political will between both presidents and there is nothing that can stop us from implementing the open airspace agreement.”
He added that five new Boeing planes and cargo handling equipment have already been purchased for the expansion of Air Djibouti to Rwanda and passenger flights can now connect both regions.
Both Rwanda and Djibouti enjoy cordial bilateral relations and both President Paul Kagame and his counterpart Ismaïl Omar Guelleh have met twice home and away.