The future of international air transport

As we continue to evolve in an increasingly globalized world, air travel has evolved from a luxury reserved for the elite to a mode of transportation used by the masses. In 2019, 4.5 billion people took a plane, with the record remaining at 5 billion in 2010.

Due to the Covid pandemic in 2020 air travel was seriously affected, falling to less than 1.8 billion travelers. The number of air movements (takeoffs and landings) is approximately 400,000 per year. With, according to the latest estimates, 25,000 commercial aircraft around the world in 2024.

But, it's not just 5 billion people as many fly multiple times a year Passenger traffic has increased the most in Asia-Pacific, Latin America and the Caribbean, Africa and the Middle East .

The plane is the fastest mode of transport for long distances. It offers excellent geographic coverage. Generally very reliable, reservations and deadlines are respected. The team staff works 24/7/365!

The advantages of air transport:

· Fastest for international shipments.

· Better geographic coverage.

· A very low index in terms of claims.

· More security when sending items of high economic value.

· Simpler processes compared to shipping.

Airplanes emit carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases when they burn fuel to operate. These emissions contribute to global warming and ocean acidification, which has harmful consequences for the environment.

The second challenge facing air transport is that of energy and the environment. Fuel currently represents around 30% of airline operational costs. Air transport is a large consumer of fossil fuels. Current CO2 emissions represent at least 2% of human emissions. It is the mode of transport that produces the most CO2 emissions per passenger/kilometer. The efforts undertaken so far will probably not be sufficient to offset the growth in traffic. If there is still some room for improvement thanks to the renewal of fleets, providing companies with new, more fuel-efficient planes, we are still waiting for the revolution which would see air transport become virtuous in terms of energy.

There is no indication that a commercial plane powered by solar panels, batteries, biofuels or hydrogen could see the light of day soon. Biofuels of various origins constitute serious products for at least partial future substitution of fossil fuels.

There are airline giants, medium and small airlines. Recently Qantas, Virgin Australia, EVA Air, Cathay Pacific Airways and Emirates were voted the best airlines in the world (according to the Airline Excellence Awards, Feb 2024).

MK: What vocation?

MK competes with around twenty other airlines including giants like Emirates, BA, AF, Turkish, Lufthansa.

Here is the list of airlines serving the destination of Mauritius:

· Air France (AF); British Airways (BA); Emirates (EK); Kenya Airways (KQ)

· Lufthansa (LH); Swiss (LX); Air Mauritius (MK); Austrian Airlines (OS)

· Brussels Airlines (SN); Corsair International (SS); Turkish Airlines (TK); Air Austral (UU)

· Edelweiss Air (WK); Saudi Airlines (SV); Air India (AI); Condor (DE)

· Vistara (UK); Neos (NO); Air Seychelles (HM).

Let's see some comments on our national campaign:

“Crisis situation within Air Mauritius”. “A respectable air line is managed from the inside and not from the outside” (Le Défi Quotidien, 23.5.24).

“The observation is bitter: instability at the management level, technical breakdowns, delays, suspensions, incessant appointments: permanent instability. This is not the case with other airlines” (Le Mauricien, 4.6,24). “Tourism in Mauritius has taken off spectacularly post-Covid”, a number of factors explain this. “Air connections remain the number one factor in this success” (Various sources). “Mauritius has become a gateway to Africa” (South African travel agent, MBCTV, 23.5.24)

“We need to review the air access policy and have another private airline. » (Raj Bhujohory, former Commercial Director of Air Mauritius, 27.2.12).

We believe that democracy works best when government facilitates and regulates the economy. The space necessary for the development of economic operators is thus ensured. Employment is created for the good of citizens and this avoids turbulence.

Since we talk a lot these days about the setbacks of Air Mauritius, let's see, first of all, if its primary vocation is to be a commercial operator or a national facilitator. The State is the majority shareholder. It is therefore time to review its role and consider it as a national facilitator, that is to say, a development tool for our country. Our tourism industry of which we are so proud and which is in full expansion is only possible with a high-capacity, reliable air service serving a wide range of destinations.

The creation of another private airline should also be considered, despite the adventures of Catovair in the past. This suggestion has the merit of relaunching the debate on the primary role of Air Mauritius.

Consider the positive situation in India, several private companies compete with AIR INDIA, namely AirAsia India, Air India Express, Go First, IndiGo, SpiceJet and Vistara (which also serves Mauritius). As well as the opening of Plaisance to other reliable and high-capacity companies, such as the very reliable Ethiopian Airlines. And a possibility of a second airport (like in Reunion) in the north of the country. The policy of strengthening lines with India, China, Australia and Africa will also have to be reviewed.

Our country absolutely needs this considerable list of around twenty airlines serving the country to alleviate our insularity and avoid our isolation. Including our MK, national air facilitator, which we can manipulate to serve the interests of the country, such as the recent extension to Chennai or the upcoming one to Agalega.

What is the nature of MK's other problems? Purchase of fuel and spare parts? (now and to come)? Composition of the fleet? Internal management structures? Network size? (Extended to Chennai recently when there was a shortage of planes); Competition and strategic partnership? Air connections remaining the number one factor in this tourism and communication success, more reliable management and service to the country is essential for MK.

Dr Michael ATCHIA

June 7, 2024.

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