Qatar Airways has further expanded operations in Africa with the launch of its 17th destination on the continent – daily scheduled flights to Rwanda.
The arrival of flight QR 536 to Rwanda's capital city of Kigali takes the airline's African capacity up to 132 passenger flights each week across a diverse network of cities.
A dramatic water salute soon after touchdown at Kigali International Airport signalled the arrival of Qatar Airways to its 113th international destination – a remarkable feat for an airline celebrating only 15 years of operations.
Qatar Airways chief executive Akbar Al Baker flew on the inaugural service from Doha, and received a colourful welcome by traditional Rwandan dancers followed by an airport ceremony attended by over 150 guests, including government ministers, local dignitaries, business leaders, airport officials and media. Chief guest was Rwanda's minister of infrastructure, Albert Nsengiyumva.
With a strong focus on operating to underserved markets worldwide, Kigali is one destination which clearly fitted the bill for Qatar Airways, said Al Baker during an arrival speech at the city's international airport.
"We have extended our reach to yet another underserved market with today's launch of flights to Kigali," he said.
"I would like to thank the Rwandan government, the local airport authority and the people of Rwanda for supporting Qatar Airways' entry to this beautiful country.
"The direct daily air link between my home city of Doha and Kigali is further testament to Qatar Airways' commitment to expanding our presence in Africa and East Africa in particular, a dynamic region to where we already fly twice daily to both Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, and daily to Entebbe.
"Our newest route connects the mineral rich Rwandan landscape with the energy rich nation of Qatar, neighbouring Gulf states and cities around the world," added Al Baker, stressing that Africa continued to be a focus of growth for Qatar Airways this year as it plans further expansion across the Continent."
Nsengiyumva, in his welcome address, said the arrival of a young and dynamic airline from the Middle East was a great boost for the aviation sector in Rwanda.
"The coming of Qatar Airways signals mutual development which will have a positive impact on the economic growth of both Rwanda and Qatar," he said, adding that the chief executive's leadership of the award-winning airline was highly commendable.
In recent months, Qatar Airways launched new African services to Benghazi in Libya and the Ugandan city of Entebbe, with a further three route start-ups planned over the next few months – Mombasa in Kenya, and both Kilimanjaro and Zanzibar in Tanzania.