Q&A: Air Mauritius – Staying the course

Air Mauritius has come a long way since beginning operations in1972, from a single six-seater aircraft to a fleet of 11 that flies to 30 destinations with 80 flights per week. CEO Carla da Silva gives her insights into the airline industry and Air Mauritius’ developments.

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

A: South Africa and Ethiopia are the two African countries among the 15 identified by a number of airline bodies as being of future strategic value to the aviation industry. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) says Africa remains one of only three regions to record positive year-to-date growth. There has been a low base growth over the past few years and a lot needs to be done to stimulate air travel in the region. The growth has been fueled by the growing middle class in Africa and the low oil price. The African airlines sector has a lot of potential for growth but it is definitely not growing enough. There is need to invest more in infrastructure to ensure this potential growth is realised. The biggest growth area was the intra-African travel that remains one of the underserved markets. African government policies are playing a huge role in undermining growth in the airlines industry. Safety, security, terrorism, skills development and infrastructure are all real challenges that face the African airline industry.

Q: What, for you, are the most pressing issues that need addressing?

A: Leadership challenges encompassing state entities; curbing open skies opportunities. Intra-African travel opportunities. Safety and security challenges in Africa along with political and economic instability.

Q: How healthy is the business travel traffic currently on Air Mauritius?

A: Business travel in particular is very healthy to Mauritius. The biggest ex-pat community is South African and many entities have established both offices and satellite offices in the country. We have a wide-bodied product on the route offering a corporate product which is very popular, and our service excellence is something Air Mauritius is renowned for.

Q: Have you recently developed any specific business travel-focused products to ensure you get your share of this market?

A: We have various business-focused products to address each segment in the market. Our corporate value propositions allows the corporate traveller more flexibility, better pricing options and more value. It includes discounted rates; last minute business class upgrades on the day of departure for R1,800 ($135) on our A319 aircraft and R2,500 ($187) for our lie-flat product on the A340 wide body aircraft; all-inclusive business class fares from R25,000 ($1,8700) to all our worldwide destinations; free stopover in Mauritius on all non-connecting flights including accommodation, transfers and meals; two-piece luggage allowance on all routes; and a free date change on international routes beyond Mauritius.

Q: What are your most recently-launched routes and what was the thinking behind pursuing these routes?

A: Our expansion into Africa and China is in line with our strategy to connect the two continents via Mauritius and our Air Corridor. The Asia-Africa Air Corridor was inaugurated in March 2016 to provide better travel options between the two continents through the hubs in Mauritius and Singapore. Our most recent routes include: Maputo (Mozambique), Dar Es Salaam (Tanzania) and Guangzhou (China).

Q: What about the MICE market? How does Air Mauritius remain attractive to this market segment?

A: MICE is a key segment for Air Mauritius due to our daily flights out of Johannesburg, and direct flights out of Durban and Cape Town to Mauritius. Our wide-bodied aircraft also makes provision for bigger groups wanting to travel to Mauritius. Mauritius is only four hours away from Johannesburg so it is a perfect destination for MICE business. Mauritius is well established for this segment, with phenomenal offerings specifically catering for MICE business. Our value proposition offers one free ticket for every 50 ticket booked, the best group rates guaranteed, a dedicated account management, a dedicated Air Mauritius check-in counter and representative, dedicated in-cabin seating at no additional cost, branded headrests on board, and free carriage of golf bags weighing up to 20 kilograms each.

Q: Have you made any recent changes to your loyalty programme Kestrel Flyer?

A: Air Mauritius Kestrel Flyer and Emirates Skywards have recently partnered. Miles on both airlines can be accrued by the passenger, as well as business class lounge privileges. Miles may be redeemed for tickets on both airlines.

Q: What’s the key to making a success of your loyalty programme?

A: The key to our success is that Kestrel Flyer members are guaranteed a seat when they redeem their miles. The programme is very streamlined, simple and effective

Q: Are there any global airline trends you’ve picked up on that you believe are worth noting and could be applied to the African market?

A: Open skies in Europe and the USA work well for all airlines and competitors allowing for intra-travel opportunities and expansion. E-commerce and online platforms are far more evolved whereas in Africa we still lag behind in this arena. The consumer abroad is far more comfortable using the online platforms versus Africa due to corruption and fraud.