Q&A: Air Mauritius – Aviation in Africa

Aviation in Africa is very complex and closely related to its macroeconomic underperformance, government regulations and lack of co-ordination across the continent. It is also an economic enabler and in order for growth and prosperity to feature in the African continent, a focused aviation vision for the continent is critical. These comments are from Carla de Silva, Regional General Manager of Southern Africa and Latin America for Air Mauritius. She has an interesting take on the industry, which she shared with Business Traveller Africa.


Q: What’s your view on the state of aviation in Africa?

A: Africa is still lagging behind the rest of world in the aviation space. The continent of Africa still has the fewest airline seats available; the smallest fleet of narrow-body and wide-body aircrafts, as well as the lowest number of aircraft on orders. The passengers loads are also the weakest compared to other continents. Challenges in terms of safety, security, infrastructure and skill development are still very much alive. Many of the airlines in Africa continue to be state owned which has its challenges. Africa’s underperformance is likely to continue and this is also due to the slow implementation of the Single African Air Transport Market. Africa’s 2019 airline capacity total of 232 million seats is 42% smaller than that of the next smallest region, the Middle East, which has 397 million seats, in spite of Africa’s much larger land size and population. Africa has only 258 aircraft on order, compared with 998 for the next smallest region on this measure, Latin America. In the first eight months of 2019, Africa’s passenger load factor was 71.9%, versus a global average of 83.0%.

Q: Can you estimate of a rough percentage of passengers flying with Air Mauritius for business?

A: It is approximately 30% of our travellers travelling to Mauritius from Southern Africa.

Q: Where does technology fit into the Air Mauritius strategy?

A: Technology is integral to our business, not only from a safety and security perspective but also from passenger experience. New generation aircraft that are more environmentally friendly, reducing carbon emissions, clean air onboard, wi-fi enablement and enhanced technology features are all part of the technology strategy.

Q: What changes has Air Mauritius made to its international network in the last two years?

A: Air Mauritius has focused on the developing, emerging markets by establishing the Air Corridor strategy connecting Africa with Asia due to its geography. We continue to fly to Europe via London and Paris with new generation aircraft with seasonal flights to Geneva (Switzerland). We continue to fly to Australia, India, China (suspended currently due to COVID-19) and inter island in the Indian Ocean as well as Africa.

Q: Have you made any recent changes to your fleet and/or onboard product?

A: We have introduced new generation aircraft and we are the first airline globally to introduce A350-900 XWB and A330-900 neo. All our aircrafts were refurbished with our new onboard product experience. All our aircrafts have new state-of-the-art technology seating, in-flight entertainment and connectivity. Air Mauritius is proud 4 Star Sky Tracks airline and a member of IATA.

Q: Are there any international airline trends you feel are currently worth noting?

A: There has been a trend in terms of more joint ventures and strategic partnerships in the aviation arena as the airline industry is extremely volatile and affected, whether positively or negatively, by all world-wide events and developments.

Q: How is the Coronavirus affecting the airline?

A: [At the time of writing] Mauritius is still a safe zone and has no reported coronavirus cases. Air Mauritius has cancelled flights to China only and implemented travel restrictions to Mauritius from Iran, Italy, China and South Korea.

Q: What can customers expect from Air Mauritius in the 2020s?

A: From a South Africa perspective, the plan is to increase capacity and schedules to South Africa as an important and strategic region, specifically Johannesburg and Cape Town. The new generation aircraft has also been deployed to South Africa. The Travel Smart Programme, the top leisure value proposition in South Africa, has grown from strength to strength and we looking at enhancements in this regard.