Air Mauritius eyes leaner operations as competition grows

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Air Mauritius CEO Somaskaran Appavou

Air Mauritius is reviewing its business model and network, and upgrading its fleet, in response to growing competition at the airline’s Indian Ocean base.

“We can’t get away from competition,” CEO Somaskaran Appavou told ATW on the sidelines of the June 3-5 IATA AGM in Seoul. “We have to get reorganized and review the business model. Simplification, consolidation, expansion is the target. By the end of June more details could be available.”

The Republic of Mauritius flag carrier operates in an environment that has changed over the half-century it has been flying, Appavou said, with more than 20 airlines now serving the small island nation.

“Our network has to be reviewed. The way we produce has to be reviewed as well, and we have to deliver more in terms of value—leaner operations, more digital,” he said.

The airline is in the process of upgrading and consolidating its fleet of 14 aircraft. The carrier received its first Airbus A330neo in April and its second is expected in June.

Air Mauritius also operates two A350-900 widebodies, with two more set to arrive this year to replace two of its three A340-300s. The final two A350s are scheduled to arrive in 2023, when the last A340 will leave the fleet.

“Operational performance of our two A350s is as per plan; for the A330neo it is too early to say. But the initial impression is good,” he said. “We have to monitor the [Rolls-Royce Trent 7000] engine to see if modifications would be necessary. But so far everything is fine.”

The A330neo is deployed on London Heathrow services, while the A350s operate to Paris Charles de Gaulle.

The carrier is also in discussions with Airbus, Boeing and Embraer regarding replacements for its two A319 narrowbodies. Single-aisle aircraft that can fly up to six hours are still necessary for the airline, Appavou said. A type decision could be made by December.

Air Mauritius also plans to phase out its fleet of three ATR-72s within three years when the runway at Rodrigues Island is extended from 1,200 m (3,937 ft.) to 2,100 m. Maintenance of the turboprops, which has to be done in Mauritius, has become a burden, Appavou said.

The airline is also retrofitting the cabins of its two A330-200s, which operate to Australia and India. “That’s a huge investment,” Appavou said.

Appavou said an ideal fleet would comprise just three types: A350s and A330neos, and a single-aisle aircraft.

Air Mauritius operates to 22 destinations in Africa, the Indian Ocean, Europe, Asia and Australia, transporting 1.6 million passengers annually.

In February, the carrier reported a €25.4 million ($28.6 million) net loss for the nine-month period ending Dec. 31, 2018, down from a €10 million net profit for the year-ago period. The airline cited growing competition and increasing costs for the results.

Air Mauritius will launch 2X-weekly Mauritius-Mahe (Seychelles) A319 services beginning July 2.

Source: ATW

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