Mauritius To Link Africa And Asia By Air
By Friday Nwosu
Air Mauritius one of the largest carriers in Africa is set to link the continent and Asian by air.
According to centreforaviation.com, the airline also has an ambitious plan to develop a new hub and expand its flag carrier with a new focus on transit traffic.
Air Mauritius has historically been focused on point-to-point traffic including inbound visitors, but is eager to tap into rapid growth in traffic between Asia and continental Africa.
Air Mauritius already has a strong network in Asia but is relatively weak regionally. In May-2016 the airline launched services to Maputo in Mozambique and Dar es Salaam in Tanzania – its first destinations in continental Africa outside South Africa and Kenya.
The airline now serves six cities in continental Africa along with three destinations in neighbouring islands, giving it nine regional international destinations. It has a larger Asian network, which currently consist of 11 destinations.
The airline is expected to launch several more African destinations by potentially using a new subsidiary, enabling it to leverage Mauritius’ ideal geographic position between Asia and Africa. A larger African network will provide a more balanced network and enable it to pursue more east-west flows, but will require rescheduling of some Asian flights and a larger narrow body fleet.
Air Mauritius has a 12-aircraft fleet, and a high mix of wide body aircraft for a small airline. Currently it has six A340s (which are due to be replaced with A350s from 2017), four A319/A320s and two ATR 72s.
The Sub Saharan carrier is also expanding in Asia, giving it more feed for its expanding regional network along with supporting tourism growth in the Vanilla Islands. Guangzhou is being launched in Jul-2016 giving Air Mauritius 12 destinations in Asia Pacific, including five in greater China along with Beijing, Hong Kong and Chengdu (the latter was launched in 2015).
Air Mauritius also serves four Indian destinations (Bengaluru, Chennai, Delhi and Mumbai), two in Southeast Asia (Kuala Lumpur and Singapore) and Perth in Australia. Its European network is much smaller, consisting of only London and Paris.
In Mar-2016 Singapore was upgraded from one-stop via Kuala Lumpur to a nonstop, as part of new partnership with Changi Airport. Air Mauritius is now using Singapore as a hub for offline destinations throughout Asia-Pacific. While in many cases a two-stop product is offered between Asia and Africa, this is competitive, and with the right scheduling Air Mauritius has the opportunity to offer some of the shortest travel times in the fast-growing Asia-Africa market.
The new Africa-Asia hub should lead to a new era of growth for Air Mauritius, which has recorded only modest traffic growth over the last six years. Since 2010 Air Mauritius has had only one year of passenger growth exceeding 3%.
Although break-even on a cumulative basis over the last six years, the airline is also hoping to improve its profitability as transit traffic numbers increase. However, Air Mauritius will face intensifying competition in the Africa-Asia market. Ethiopian Airlines, particularly, has already been very successful in tapping into Africa-Asia growth; at the same time the Gulf airlines are aggressive competitors and Chinese airlines are starting to focus more on Africa.