Q&A: Air Mauritius – Solid and steady

Air Mauritius has built a reputation as a well-run African airline and important player in the industry, so it’s always a good time to get the thoughts of the Regional General Manager of its Africa & Latin America region, Carla de Silva, on all matters related to the continent’s aviation industry.

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Q: What’s your view on the current state of the African airline industry?

A: Africa holds around a 3% share of the global air transport market and is home to 15% of the world’s population. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) predicts that air passenger activity will double by 2035. Africa’s growth of 6% per annum is expected to outstrip the global average of less than 5% per annum over this period. IATA reports that aviation in Africa currently supports $72.5 billion in economic activity and 6.8 million jobs. Over the next 20 years, aviation is forecast to grow at nearly 6% per year, creating significant opportunities. It expects the top 10 fastest growing aviation economies will all be in Africa, boosting not only tourism but also adding benefits to cargo services.

Q: And your view on the ‘open skies’ debate?

A: Industry analysis shows that if only 12 countries institute the liberalised policy, which is being led by the African Union (AU), more than 155 million new jobs will be created in Africa – with GDP growth estimated at $1.3 billion across the continent. About two decades ago, 44 African countries signed the Yamoussoukro Decision, although, it seems as though collaboration continues to be a challenge in Africa. Monopolies are no good, as the aviation industry and the continent are very dependent on connectivity, which can only be improved through healthy competition.

Q: What role do you feel an airline can play in the MICE space?

A: An airline plays a major role as airlines are able to increase capacity and provide better rates and benefits for businesses doing meetings, incentives, conferences and events. Air Mauritius has certainly aligned our value proposition for MICE to cater for the huge increased business this segment generates. MICE business also plays an important role in increased capacity, more schedules, investment and tourism in the respective country. We have seen how MICE has played an important role in Mauritius.

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

A: Air Mauritius has established a joint venture with KLM and commenced flights to Amsterdam in April. We added seasonal flights to Geneva (Switzerland) in November 2017 and Dar es Salaam (Tanzania) in May 2016. We’ve introduced Wuhan as a new destination in China and have increased frequencies to India. We’ve also increased capacity to Cape Town by switching from a narrow bodied aircraft to a wide bodied aircraft.

Q: Why is the Far East an important destination for the airline?

A: Our Asia-Africa hub strategy takes into consideration the increased travel from these two emerging markets. Mauritius has the perfect geography for connectivity.

Q: Have you made any recent changes to your fleet, and if so, what was the thinking behind these changes?

A: We have introduced new generation aircraft to our fleet – the A350-900XWB and the A330-900NEO. Air Mauritius is the first airline globally to operate these two aircrafts simultaneously in its fleet. It was imperative to introduce new technology, better efficiencies, a far superior travel experience for our customers, and savings such as a 20% reduction in fuel costs, maintenance and lower CO2 emissions.

Q: How is your premium class offering tailored to the business traveller?

A: Passengers benefit from a full flat business class seat in a 1-2-1 configuration ensuring maximum comfort and privacy. Our new generation aircraft are wi-fi equipped, allowing the business traveller to work whilst flying.

Q: What do you think the business traveller is looking for from the airline he or she flies?

A: Affordable pricing, maximum comfort, shorter flying times, greater connectivity and safety. Our new generation product and network has taken these factors into consideration.

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

A: Overcapacity and fare pressure will reduce per-passenger yields. Airline profitability and financial stability will increase by prioritising profit per passenger over cost per seat. Ancillary revenue streams are increasing in many different ways. Pilot shortage is affecting the industry globally as the air travel demand increases. Ultra-long haul flights are being introduced with the introduction of the new generation aircrafts. Political and economic instability is a threat. Fuel costs remain a challenge

Q: Where would you like to see Air Mauritius in 10 years’ time?

A: I would like to see Air Mauritius as the leading airline in Africa in a sustainable and profitable manner, playing a bigger role in the continent and ideally, flying to more destinations in Africa and providing the needed connectivity the continent requires.