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The creation of a new regional airline, under Air Mauritius, has resurfaced. It is reported that this project was raised at the board level. The latter is divided on the issue, and has not yet decided on the matter. The subject therefore remains on the working table, but will also have to have the approval of the Government House before it can possibly be implemented. In any case, the project is being treated with the utmost discretion for the moment.

The idea of ​​having a regional airline is not new in itself. A consultant was hired about ten years ago to conduct a feasibility study. In 2013/14, the Indian Ocean Commission (IOC) also proposed the creation of a regional airline by joining forces with the region's airlines and possibly adding a major strategic partner.

A study, funded by the European Union, was conducted in 2014. It concluded that a regional airline could, on the one hand, bring an interesting drop in airfare prices while increasing the number of passengers. The figure of a possible increase in passengers of around 40% had been mentioned. At the time, Air Mauritius was not attracted by the idea. And for good reason…

The latter itself was toying with the idea of ​​creating an airline to serve destinations in the region. Based on the “low-cost” model, this company was to be 100% owned by Air Mauritius. A pre-feasibility study was submitted to the Air Mauritius board of directors in early 2016 after English consultants, hired for a market study, had hinted at potential in their report submitted in 2015.
At that time, there was talk of Air Mauritius creating a “low-cost” company to serve destinations in the Indian Ocean, but also countries such as Mozambique, South Africa, Zambia, Malaysia, China and Singapore.

“The idea in itself is excellent, but making it a reality is something else. We have seen in the past that it would be extremely costly to create a new airline and, on the other hand, it would serve markets that Air Mauritius already serves, with a few exceptions. At the time, the board had abandoned the idea because it would be too risky. However, Air Mauritius was recording record profits at that time. Moreover, doing low-cost on destinations that bring us a lot of money, such as Reunion, did not make sense,” explains a former Chief Executive Officer of Air Mauritius.

Front door…

For those in favour of the creation of this regional airline, the context has changed since Covid-19. “The number of passengers is growing. According to forecasts, this growth will continue for a few more years. A regional airline would have allowed it to focus on the region and thus expand the market, and leave us the most promising destinations, such as France or England,” confides a senior executive of Air Mauritius.

Some already have a good idea about the kind of strategic partner this regional airline could have. Eyes are fixed on Ethiopian Airlines. This African aviation giant has been wanting to set up shop in Mauritius for a few years now with the promise of bringing African customers. A regional airline would allow it to make its entry into Mauritius.

Until now, all the managements of Air Mauritius have always opposed the arrival of Ethiopian Airlines, considering that it would cannibalize Air Mauritius' clientele, like Emirates, Turkish Airlines or Saudia, which use their respective hubs to bring tourists from Europe to Mauritius. Each government listened to Air Mauritius when it came to Ethiopian Airlines. It now remains to be seen whether the new management of the national airline will maintain its veto.

Jack Bizlall defers to Prime Minister

Trade unionist Jack Bizlall, on behalf of the Observatory of Democracy, defers to Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth on the Air Mauritius issue. In a letter he sent to him at the end of June, he points out that “the situation is far more serious today than in 2001”.

He fears that Air Mauritius “will disappear and be replaced by a very small airline”.

Jack Bizlall considers that “the Ethiopian Airlines company has been acting underhandedly since 2019 to get its hands on Air Mauritius (…) I ask you to take the necessary steps to stop all this.”

Reason for Laurent Recoura’s suspension?

Is the creation of this regional airline one of the reasons that led to the suspension of the Chief Commercial Officer of Air Mauritius, Laurent Recoura, on May 21?

In his suspension letter, sent the same day and signed by the Head of Human Resources, Laurent Recoura is accused of having “disclosed the Chief Executive Officer’s new project to launch a regional airline”. The letter mentions two names. One of a senior Airbus executive and the other of a local tourism operator.

The correspondence also states that “you disclosed the name of an operator who may potentially be involved in the project, namely Ethiopian Airlines” to the two people outside the company.

Le Défi Plus contacted the local tourism operator on Thursday. The latter responded with a “no comment”.

A350-900 grounded since July 1

One of Air Mauritius' A350-900s, named “Le Morne Brabant” has been grounded since Monday, July 1. Reports indicate that the problem is related to an electronic part located next to one of the two engines. “A new part must come from abroad. As soon as it arrives, the defective part will be replaced. The aircraft should be operational again within a few days,” said an authorized source from Air Mauritius.

This aircraft had undergone a C-Check, i.e. a complete maintenance in Bordeaux about two months ago. A new engine had been installed during this exercise. However, on July 1, when the aircraft was due to go to England, a technical problem, which is not linked to this new machine, was detected.

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