Nobody beats Somas Appavou in praising the qualities of the Airbus A350, something that’s not surprising given his previous job was as an Airbus salesman based in Dubai.
In 2017 he returned to his Home Island and former employer to become CEO of Air Mauritius.
And, of course, he is immensely satisfied with the two A350s currently in his fleet.
“It has a very high dispatch reliability and the fuel burn is as low as promised, 15 percent less than the A340,” he says while talking to airline ratings in Mauritius.
When the first aircraft arrived in October, 2017, the event was televised live and the Prime Minister gave a speech. That’s how important this event was for the whole island nation.
The two A350-900s are flying currently on daily routes from Mauritius to Johannesburg, as well as to Paris-CDG.
Air Mauritius is getting four more A350s but has pushed out deliveries until 2023.
In the meantime, the island airline will receive two A330-900neos from Toulouse in autumn of 2018, being among the first operators worldwide.
“We bought the A330-900neos for routes that don’t need the range of the A350, the A330s will go to Asian cities as well as Perth and Geneva,” reveals Appavou.
Perth, served four times a week, already gets a healthy feed of connecting traffic from destinations such as Nairobi and South Africa.
“More and more Australians are discovering Mauritius rather than going elsewhere where safety is a topic Appavou says., “Also, we see more and more South Africans meeting family living in Australia for a holiday together, meeting half way – in Mauritius.”
When the new A330neos arrive, four A340-300s will be phased out. The airline currently operates six and two A340s it owns will get a new cabin upgraded to A350 standards by the end of 2018. These two enduring A340s will then be replaced by the last two remaining A350s by 2023.
“For long haul, we then have the number of aircraft to do the job, we will not order beyond six A350s,” the airline executive notes. “Our focus is now to expand Mauritius as a regional hub.”
Mauritius in the southern Indian Ocean is booming as a tourist destination. The island, home to 1.26 million inhabitants, received 1.34 million visitors in 2017 and this year 1.41 million tourists are expected.
But the high seasonality of the tourism trade is s problem for Air Mauritius, as most sun-seekers arrive during the European winter.
“We need stability in our schedule and to be less dependent on seasonal travel, as is very common in tourism with many of the charter companies doing cherry-picking,” says Appavou.
And competition gets particularly heated in winter when carriers such as Alitalia, Austrian, Edelweiss, KLM and Lufthansa appear during peak season.