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Thursday, 02 June 2011 20:41

Uganda: Flying Higher

By Magnus Mazimpaka

KAMPALA, Uganda, June 2, 2011 (The Independent)Six months ago, Rwanda's airline was worth nothing. Today, Rwandair is worth US$100 million and has stretched its wings as far as Dubai, S. Africa and Congo Brazzaville. Magnus Mazimpaka speaks to CEO John Mirenge, the man behind the airline's success.

Q: Can you describe the current status of the airline?

A: Rwandair's life history, as a fully fledged airline, is short. It began in January 2010, after the acquisition of the Canadian Regional Jets, followed by the acquisition of the two Boeings, which we use for domestic and Bujumbura routes. If you go back a bit before that, you are talking of Rwandair as a virtual airline. We only carried a national flag. We had no planes, no engineers, and no pilots. We leased on a weekly basis from whoever had a plane. We are now a start-up company.


We hired specialized engineers, pilots, all which go with an airline. We have at least all it takes to be an airline. You walk into our plane you will see something unique. Our liability has significantly improved by about 100%. We fly on time. Performance came from 60% zone to about 95%. Every single aircraft goes on time. We have rigorous and strict discipline within our staff with strict monitoring. We moved our offices from town to the airport. Now, I can say that the aircraft is gone. In the next five minutes if this plane does not take off, I will pick my phone and ask 'What is going on?' The engineer, chief pilot, the operations guys are all answerable to management.

Q: You must have a lot to do?

A: Airline business is a highly specialized business. You don't get a pilot or an aircraft engineer in a day. Rwandair did not have those skills. The air force has given us some of its pilots, ground engineers, about 20 pilots--six who are coming out of South Africa, nine that are in the US. Three of them are already flying. It is going to take three to five years to get a cockpit purely managed by Rwandans.


We have a South African company going through our office, checking desks training our people to keep the smile. It is not easy to transform people's mindsets, people who have not had the culture to smile, to open up, to speak nicely, to excite the customer, it takes time. The other area that we've had to embark on is technical skills in revenue accounting and finance. We need people who understand the system, people who are able to reconcile all the accounts.


Q: Can you describe your growth trend?

A: We are still in an investment phase like any other business; we have to find working capital, because we are not yet able to generate sufficient funds to cover all our costs, so that is still a very big challenge. But like any other business our biggest challenge is that of cash flows, working capital, but we can foresee it ending soon.


Another issue is we must either be associated or partner or be part of a large network, and hence feed the network and be fed too. We don't have internet booking ability, which we think we will have in the next one month. We are also working on a frequent flyer program. If you fly with us many times, you should be able to put together a reality program where you would get your miles banked and at a certain point you can start redeeming some of those miles into free tickets, upgrades, all other goodies that come with a reality program.


Q: Why should someone fly with Rwandair?

A: We can pride ourselves on reliability. We keep time and safety. We have some of the best pilots and engineers. We are still building our maintenance capacity. We took on some of the best providers of those services. Part of South African Airways has engineers here. In terms of the maintenance capability, we are running with the best the world can offer. In terms of pilots, we hired from one of the most credible firms that takes pilots that used to fly with some of the airlines in Europe.


In terms of flexibility, you leave here at one o'clock and you are in Dubai by ten o'clock in the night and you leave Dubai at midnight or so, by six o'clock you are in Kigali. In the past, someone coming out of Dubai could spend the whole day in Nairobi or Addis and reach here the following.


Q: How is the recent route to Congo Brazzaville and Libreville performing?

A: We are basically linking the Eastern Africa side to West Africa. There hasn't been any traffic going to that region.


Q: Is that a reflection of your growth or simply going for an open niche?

As an airline you need to grow naturally; don't take on too much before you prospect. We want to use the good diplomatic relations between the government of Rwanda and Congo Brazzaville to extend our network there. It is part of our growth strategy to facilitate anybody wanting to come to Rwanda and East Africa.


Q: How is it the route performing?

A: It is slow, but growing. The exciting bit about those areas is trade. We're starting to see lot's of Rwandan products, agricultural products. We have a constant booking of one tone on our small aircraft for every time we fly to Brazzaville. We have what is called freedom out of both Brazzaville and Libreville. When we get into Brazzaville we pick Congolese, take them to Libreville then bring them back to Brazzaville and come back to Kigali. There is that flexibility and the two governments are very happy with that relationship. We understand we're not going to be profitable overnight, but that is the nature of the business.


Q: I understand Rwanda's policy is to let the private sector do business. When is Rwandair going to be handed over to investors?

A: We are a land locked country; accessibility becomes a key aspect in terms of growing the other sectors of the economy, trade and business. Previous attempts by the private sector to take over Rwandair did not yield much. The private sector always looks at numbers and making a quick break even, and quick profits. The government looks at all the other benefits and advantages that come with decisions like creating Rwandair. When the private sector didn't seem fast enough to take over this aviation sector, government took over the management until we reach a point where it is profitable, stable and sustainable. It is a matter of time for the company to become viable and attractive.


Q: Who is the shareholder apart from government?

A: At the moment it's majority government, about 99%. There is one share that is normally owned by the chairman.


Q: How much is Rwandair worth?

A: Until the beginning of last year, we were really worth nothing, but since then we have acquired planes, assets, and ground handling staff. In terms of our asset base we are in the range of about 100 million dollars.

Q: What have you, as an individual, brought in where others failed?

A: I would say the team is now galvanized, working together to instill discipline, high level performance, accepting no less than what is the best.


Q: Where do you see Rwandair in the future?

A: I see an operation that serves the entire region. I see Kigali becoming a second hub, because we are already connecting passengers from the region, transiting in and out. With the development of our airport infrastructure our capacity to be a regional hub gets even better.


Q: What do you mean by regional hub?

A: People traveling from East Africa and beyond can travel through Rwanda to go to Dubai, to go to wherever they want to go as we open up more destinations. Currently, there are people coming out of Brazzaville through Kigali to go to Dubai. The numbers are still small, but it is happening.


Q: Annually, how many customers do you handle?

A: Last year we did carry about 150,000 passengers; we see that number growing by more than 30% this year as we get known in the market.


Q: How strong is your marketing?

A: With the coming of the internet booking that we'll probably have within the next month then it basically opens Rwandair to every computer anywhere in the world, meaning that when you tap in Kigali the first thing that comes to you is Rwandair and then from where you're sitting in Australia or Canada you can use your credit card to pay for the ticket.


Q: You might agree with me to a certain degree that in terms of doing business,s government does not necessarily work like a profit generating company, so how do you stand out in terms of providing services?

A: In this business, you either do it well or perish. We are competing with the best of the world and they are all private businesses. With the fuel hike and all the costs going up, the airlines business is becoming extremely competitive and to survive we must do some innovations, something different. I will agree with you that we are probably not advertising enough, again it goes back to our ability with advertising, our constraints, but we are looking at different ways to do it that is not costly. (END)




Кольтер с содроганием вспоминал этот эпизод своей "Автоматизация стенда для испытаний гидроаккумулятора (ГА) на ресурс"жизни, разбивая лагерь "Автоматизация судовых паротурбинных установок"на крошечном островке, поросшем чахлыми березками.

Само собой "Автоматизация стана холодной прокатки труб ХПТ 55 с разработкой подсистемы жидкой смазки на ОАО 'СинТЗ'"разумеется, гномы стараются платить демонам той же монетой.

На "Автоматизация сушильно-ширильной стабилизационной машины"шесть пенсов риса 1 Утро среды, одиннадцать часов, ясный, погожий денек.

Единственный "Автоматизация сушильно-промывной линии ЛПС-120"выход, предложенный ими, состоит в том, "Автоматизация технологических процессов"чтобы артефакты снова унесли и спрятали в разных местах.

Подкрепившись, я закурил одну "Автоматизация теплового и технологического режимов дуговой печи ДСП-180 в условиях ЭСПЦ ОАО 'ММК'"title="Автоматизация тепловых процессов на примере кожухотрубчатого "Автоматизация технологических процессов"теплообменника">Автоматизация тепловых процессов на примере кожухотрубчатого теплообменника"из последних сигарет, "Автоматизация технологических процессов"таким образом внеся свою лепту в загрязнение окружающей среды, и забрался в спальный мешок.

В том первом походе, однажды ночью, среди пустыни, вдруг поднялась страшная буря.


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