What are your thoughts on the current state of the African aviation industry?
Whilst Africa contributes 3% of the world’s aviation traffic, it does suffer from a very high accident rate. But, there is also opportunity. Recent research conducted by the South African Air Traffic and Navigation Services revealed how extensive that is. The research also revealed that behind the high accident rate, the gap lies primarily in the field of skills. Therefore, tools and resources which promote safety are imperative. The notion of ‘open skies’ is also very important for growth and development. Although Africa has a very promising economic future, growth could be hampered by the lack of transport infrastructure. Therefore, airlines, government and other stakeholders need to stand together and strategically address the continent’s issues, as Africa offers excellent economic growth.
In terms of world perception, do African carriers still have to prove their safety credentials?
Yes, definitely. African carriers have certainly come a long way in terms of addressing fleet, maintenance and safety issues, but it is an area that still requires much work.
Besides improving safety, what else could African carriers do to improve their image? Governments and aviation stakeholders need to seriously invest in training programmes to uplift the skills of Africans, as equipment alone cannot deliver safety. Professionalism and infrastructure are other areas that need improvement.
What other challenges does the African aviation industry currently face?
Capacity. Travellers are travelling via Europe to North Africa. When wanting to travel to North or West Africa in particular, the best connections are via Europe, which is indicative of the fact that there is not enough capacity. Also, political instability, which poses a challenge in terms of planning and investment, and which results in flight diversions, cancellations and stranded travellers.
How competitive is the African aviation industry?
Africa is a gold mine, because there is not enough capacity to address the demand. The demand outweighs the supply. This is due to the perception and image that Africa is unstable due to the safety, security and political challenges -hence the lack of investment. There are only a few international, recognised airlines that cover Africa today.
What are the international aviation themes of 2012?
Continuous pressure on yield, increased competition, high oil prices/volatility of forex markets, emissions reduction, and the emergence of low-cost carriers.
Does Air Mauritius plan to start servicing any new routes in 2012?
Air Mauritius has actually reviewed its business model. There will be a reconfiguration of the company’s network over the next five years. The following loss-making routes are to be suspended in May: Milan (to be serviced on a daily basis via Paris) and Sydney/Melbourne (to be serviced via Perth). The following routes are to be suspended in October: Frankfurt, Geneva, Munich (to be serviced on a daily basis via Paris), Bangalore (to be serviced via Mumbai and Chennai) and Durban (to be serviced on a daily basis via Johannesburg). The following destinations will be reinforced: Paris, London, Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Perth, Johannesburg, Cape Town, Nairobi, Antananarivo, St Denis, St Pierre and Rodrigues.
How much of your business is business travel?
Are you seeing Mauritius being taken more seriously as a business travel destination?
Yes. There has been an increase in investment in Mauritius due to tax benefits, as well as increase in travel via Mauritius to beyond destinations, namely India, China, and Australia. There has also been an increase to London.
Do you foresee the emergence of more low-cost carriers, as both leisure and business travellers continue to tighten their belts?
Definitely. Many airlines are transforming and reviewing their business models, as the market has become very price sensitive and susceptible to issues such as the increase in taxes. That ultimately impacts the consumer. In order to survive, airlines are exploring all areas of the business to address low-cost, in order to reduce pricing and reflect value for money propositions.