Kigali International Airport (IATA: KGL, ICAO: HRYR), formerly known as Gregoire Kayibanda International Airport but sometimes referred to as Kanombe International Airport. It is the primary airport serving Kigali (the capital of Rwanda). It is the main air gateway for all destinations in the country and in addition, it serves as a transit airport for Goma and Bukavu in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Location

The airport is located in the suburb of Kanombe at the eastern edge of Kigali approximately 5 kilometers (3.1 mi), by road, east of the central business district of the city of Kigali.

History

During the Rwandan Civil War, Kigali airport was a major strategic point. Since Rwanda is land-locked, this represented the only easy way in and out of the country. The airport had two runways, but after the Arusha Accords, one runway was closed down after a request from the RPF. Later in April 1994, the President of Rwanda’s plane was shot down in the Assassination of Juvénal Habyarimana and Cyprien Ntaryamira. It is disputed who shot down the plane, the RPF or the FAR (Rwandan Defence Forces). This event triggered a renewal of the civil war and the beginning of the Rwandan Genocide.

Passenger traffic

In 2004, the airport served 135,189 passengers. In 2008, the airport served about 270,000 passengers. In May 2011, the Rwanda CAA announced that Kigali airport will be upgraded to meet the strong demand. Works started in October 2012 and will be completed in May 2014. In 2012, data from Rwanda Civil Aviation Authority shows that passenger traffic through Kigali International Airport grew by 30 per cent to 488,903 last year, up from 377,327 in 2011. The airport handled over 300 flights a week. The airport is designed to handle 400,000 passengers per year. According to last figures, international and domestic passenger numbers were nearly 600,000 in 2013 while flight frequencies were about 400 weekly. International and domestic passenger numbers were 710,000 in 2016.

Facilities

There are three terminals at Kigali. The main two-storey terminal was built to replace the single-storey building, now housing the VIP terminal. The main terminal can handle 6 small-to-midsized aircraft but also up to a Boeing 747 jet. The south side of the runway has two helicopter pads with access to the main runway. Such pads are used for military helicopters. A cargo terminal is also located at the airport. The latest upgrades to tarmac and support systems were made in 2002. There is free Wi-Fi in the airport waiting area. In 2014, Kigali Airport ranked 7th best regional airport in Africa, because of its capacity to respond to disaster, through its fire department (Category Nine), the second best according to International Aviation Organization standards. Since 2010, the airport is managed by Changi Airport Group.

Rwanda airline has its head office on the top floor of the airport main building. The airline previously had its head office in Centenary House in Kigali. The airline began moving its operations from Centenary House to the airport on Friday 14 May 2010. The airline was scheduled to be moved in by Monday 17 May 2010.

In addition, Akagera Aviation and the Rwanda Civil Aviation Authority have their offices at the airport.

New Kigali (Bugesera) International Airport

There are plans to replace the current airport with a new one located south of Kigali on the south side of the Nyabarongo River in Bugesera. A new airport location is needed as the existing airport does not allow for growth (no room for additional runway and facilities). The new airport will have one runway, though allowing space for a second one to be added later. Construction was planned to begin in 2015.

In September 2016, a contract between the Rwandan government and Mota-Engil Engenharia e Construção África, S.A., a Portuguese firm, was signed. The company will construct the airport in two phases with works on the first phase now scheduled to begin in June 2017. After finishing the first phase by December 2018, Mota-Engil Engenharia e Construção África, S.A. will subsequently operate the airport for 25 years. At this point, the airport will have a capacity of 1.7 million passengers per year. A second phase that is planned to be built after that is supposed to raise the capacity of the airport to 4.5 million passengers per year. Mota-Engil Engenharia e Construção África, S.A. will cover the costs of US $418 million for the first phase and US $400 million for the second phase, leading to a total investment of US $818 million. In a way of compensation, the company has the right to keep the profits from operating the airport. Under the agreement, the Rwandan government won’t have to contribute to the costs of construction and operation.