Q & A In­ter­views

• Carla da Silva – Air Mau­ri­tius • Chris Nas­setta – Hil­ton

Business Traveller (Africa) - - CONTENTS - Carla da Silva Re­gional GM: Africa & Latin Amer­ica Air Mau­ri­tius

Air Mau­ri­tius has built a rep­u­ta­tion as a well-run African air­line and im­por­tant player in the in­dus­try, so it’s al­ways a good time to get the thoughts of the Re­gional Gen­eral Man­ager of its Africa & Latin Amer­ica re­gion, Carla de Silva, on all mat­ters re­lated to the con­ti­nent’s avi­a­tion in­dus­try.

Q: What’s your view on the cur­rent state of the African air­line in­dus­try?

A: Africa holds around a 3% share of the global air trans­port mar­ket and is home to 15% of the world's pop­u­la­tion. The In­ter­na­tional Air Trans­port As­so­ci­a­tion (IATA) pre­dicts that air pas­sen­ger ac­tiv­ity will dou­ble by 2035. Africa's growth of 6% per an­num is ex­pected to out­strip the global aver­age of less than 5% per an­num over this pe­riod. IATA re­ports that avi­a­tion in Africa cur­rently sup­ports $72.5 bil­lion in eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity and 6.8 mil­lion jobs. Over the next 20 years, avi­a­tion is fore­cast to grow at nearly 6% per year, cre­at­ing sig­nif­i­cant op­por­tu­ni­ties. It ex­pects the top 10 fastest grow­ing avi­a­tion economies will all be in Africa, boost­ing not only tourism but also adding ben­e­fits to cargo ser­vices.

Q: And your view on the ‘open skies’ de­bate?

A: In­dus­try anal­y­sis shows that if only 12 coun­tries in­sti­tute the lib­er­alised pol­icy, which is be­ing led by the African Union (AU), more than 155 mil­lion new jobs will be cre­ated in Africa – with GDP growth es­ti­mated at $1.3 bil­lion across the con­ti­nent. About two decades ago, 44 African coun­tries signed the Ya­mous­soukro De­ci­sion, al­though, it seems as though col­lab­o­ra­tion con­tin­ues to be a chal­lenge in Africa. Mo­nop­o­lies are no good, as the avi­a­tion in­dus­try and the con­ti­nent are very de­pen­dent on con­nec­tiv­ity, which can only be im­proved through healthy com­pe­ti­tion.

Q: What role do you feel an air­line can play in the MICE space?

A: An air­line plays a ma­jor role as air­lines are able to in­crease ca­pac­ity and pro­vide bet­ter rates and ben­e­fits for busi­nesses do­ing meet­ings, in­cen­tives, con­fer­ences and events. Air Mau­ri­tius has

cer­tainly aligned our value propo­si­tion for MICE to cater for the huge in­creased busi­ness this seg­ment gen­er­ates. MICE busi­ness also plays an im­por­tant role in in­creased ca­pac­ity, more sched­ules, in­vest­ment and tourism in the re­spec­tive coun­try. We have seen how MICE has played an im­por­tant role in Mau­ri­tius.

Q: What changes has Air Mau­ri­tius made to its in­ter­na­tional net­work in the last two years?

A: Air Mau­ri­tius has es­tab­lished a joint ven­ture with KLM and com­menced flights to Am­s­ter­dam in April. We added sea­sonal flights to Geneva (Switzer­land) in Novem­ber 2017 and Dar es Salaam (Tan­za­nia) in May 2016. We've in­tro­duced Wuhan as a new des­ti­na­tion in China and have in­creased fre­quen­cies to In­dia. We've also in­creased ca­pac­ity to Cape Town by switch­ing from a nar­row bod­ied air­craft to a wide bod­ied air­craft.

Q: Why is the Far East an im­por­tant des­ti­na­tion for the air­line?

A: Our Asia-Africa hub strat­egy takes into con­sid­er­a­tion the in­creased travel from th­ese two emerg­ing mar­kets. Mau­ri­tius has the per­fect ge­og­ra­phy for con­nec­tiv­ity.

Q: Have you made any re­cent changes to your fleet, and if so, what was the think­ing be­hind th­ese changes?

A: We have in­tro­duced new gen­er­a­tion air­craft to our fleet

– the A350-900XWB and the A330-900NEO. Air Mau­ri­tius is the first air­line glob­ally to op­er­ate th­ese two air­crafts si­mul­ta­ne­ously in its fleet. It was im­per­a­tive to in­tro­duce new tech­nol­ogy, bet­ter ef­fi­cien­cies, a far su­pe­rior travel ex­pe­ri­ence for our cus­tomers, and sav­ings such as a 20% re­duc­tion in fuel costs, main­te­nance and lower CO2 emis­sions.

Q: How is your premium class of­fer­ing tai­lored to the busi­ness trav­eller?

A: Pas­sen­gers ben­e­fit from a full flat busi­ness class seat in a 1-2-1 con­fig­u­ra­tion en­sur­ing max­i­mum com­fort and pri­vacy. Our new gen­er­a­tion air­craft are wi-fi equipped, al­low­ing the busi­ness trav­eller to work whilst fly­ing.

Q: What do you think the busi­ness trav­eller is look­ing for from the air­line he or she flies? A: Af­ford­able pric­ing, max­i­mum com­fort, shorter fly­ing times, greater con­nec­tiv­ity and safety. Our new gen­er­a­tion prod­uct and net­work has taken th­ese fac­tors into con­sid­er­a­tion.

Q: Are there any in­ter­na­tional air­line trends you feel are cur­rently worth not­ing?

A: Over­ca­pac­ity and fare pres­sure will re­duce per-pas­sen­ger yields. Air­line prof­itabil­ity and fi­nan­cial sta­bil­ity will in­crease by pri­ori­tis­ing profit per pas­sen­ger over cost per seat. An­cil­lary rev­enue streams are in­creas­ing in many dif­fer­ent ways. Pi­lot short­age is af­fect­ing the in­dus­try glob­ally as the air travel de­mand in­creases. Ul­tra-long haul flights are be­ing in­tro­duced with the in­tro­duc­tion of the new gen­er­a­tion air­crafts. Po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic in­sta­bil­ity is a threat. Fuel costs re­main a chal­lenge

Q: Where would you like to see Air Mau­ri­tius in 10 years’ time?

A: I would like to see Air Mau­ri­tius as the lead­ing air­line in Africa in a sus­tain­able and prof­itable man­ner, play­ing a big­ger role in the con­ti­nent and ideally, fly­ing to more des­ti­na­tions in Africa and pro­vid­ing the needed con­nec­tiv­ity the con­ti­nent re­quires. ■

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