Travel & Tourism
Air Pacific believes it is almost ready to take the fight back to its Australian and New Zealand rivals with a revitalised staff, an overhauled in-flight product, new identity and distinctive traditional livery on a new fleet of A330-200s in 2013.
Financially Fiji’s national carrier, which will revert to its original name of Fiji Airways, is back on its feet, recovering from a record loss to return to profit this year, and with arch rival Virgin Australia focused on a bigger battle for the Australian domestic market, Air Pacific/Fiji Airways could look to recoup some of the more than 50% market share it has lost in recent years.
But Managing Director Dave Pflieger, a former senior executive at Virgin America, warns that the 46% Qantas-owned airline still has a long way to go as it works its way through the final phase of its three-stage transformation programme. Key risks remain, including an uncertain global economy, volatile fuel costs and the threat of renewed competition. And somewhere along the line, the commercial/political/legal squabble with Qantas needs to be resolved.
Air Mauritius joins fellow Vanilla Islands carriers that are restructuring their operations largely as a result of decreased demand from mainstay European markets undergoing economic turmoil. The Vanilla Islands – comprising La Reunion, Madagascar, Mauritius and the Seychelles – have already seen restructures from Air Austral in La Reunion, Air Madagascar and Air Seychelles. Air Mauritius’ plan, the last outstanding expected restructure, will see its European presence consolidated while efforts are renewed to expand to the potentially stronger but still nascent Asian market.
REDjet, the first and only Caribbean low-cost carrier, is aiming to pursue dramatic expansion in 2012 with up to eight new destinations. The ambitious and pioneering carrier, which launched services in May-2011, plans to add three destinations by early April, giving it a total of nine. The carrier aims to end the year with a network of up to 14 destinations throughout the Caribbean, northern South America and potentially Central America.
It took low-cost long-haul carrier AirAsia X four years to secure the right to serve Sydney, and the carrier is now putting the matter behind it following its confirmation it will serve the Australian city from Kuala Lumpur with a daily service from 01-Apr-2012, with the likelihood of a double daily to follow. Another Australian city will later be added, to reach its goal of serving five Australian cities by the end of 2013. Also on the carrier's expansion list is increased services to its existing Asian destinations, many of which are not served daily.
While the Sydney route progressed in likelihood following restrictions being lifted in Jun-2011, the route became a certainty after start-up competitor Scoot said it would make Sydney its first destination from the middle of this year. The possibility of Malaysia letting a competitor based in Singapore, its fierce rival, serve Sydney before a Malaysian low-cost carrier was simply unacceptable.
Even before the NATO air strikes, the United Nations sanctions and the European Union ban, Libya’s aviation industry had little hope. The country, ruled by Muammar Gaddafi under an iron fist for the last 40 years, placed little focus on its airlines and airports, while countries in the nearby Middle East flourished and started to develop some of the largest hubs in the world. The Middle East/North African region has become increasingly important but it seems Libya was left behind, and when major unrest broke out in Feb-2011, the industry’s problems widened significantly. Now Libya has been “liberalised” and Gaddafi killed, it must begin the slow process of rebuilding an industry whose foundations were not strong to begin with. International airlines have resumed services, investment firms are showing interest in relaunching airport renovation projects, the country’s two national carriers have relaunched operations and are set to resume talks on their merger, and tourism operators are becoming optimistic about future bookings.
Inspired by the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions, the unrest in Libya is part of the greater Arab Spring, which has seen the leaders of Egypt, Tunisia and now Libya overthrown. Aviation in these countries during the unrest was unstable, however, Tunisair and EgyptAir have successfully restored operations to full capacity. In Feb-2011, Cairo International Airport recorded 530,000 passengers – a 54% drop from Feb-2010. The airport is now operating at near-2010 capacity, and in Jul-2011 and Sep-2011, passenger traffic surpassed 2009 levels. Libya’s Monastir Habib Bourguiba International Airport and Enfidha Zine El Abidine Ben Ali Airport, both operated by TAV Holdings, have been recording consistent traffic decreases of between 30% and 50% each month.
Under what has been dubbed a “restructuring effort”, Air Seychelles has cut 77% of its total seat capacity. Between Nov-2011 and Mar-2012, the airline will cut all routes except for its domestic services, which includes one scheduled service to Praslin Island and a handful of chartered services operated on behalf of hotels, and its twice weekly service to Mauritius. The carrier in Oct-2011 had a restructuring plan, CEO changes and corporate re-branding, which were intended to result in a renewed focus on high-end tourism, as CAPA wrote at the time. Just two months later, the carrier announced deep capacity cuts, suggesting more drastic measures were needed.
Fellow Vanilla Islands Group (an affiliation of the island nations Seychelles, Madagascar, La Reunion, Mauritius and Comoros that are supposed to work together to promote tourism and investment) carrier Air Austral, based in La Reunion, will also make capacity cuts to its long-haul network although it is looking to Asia Pacific and remains intent on keeping its European services operating. Meanwhile, Air Mauritius recently reported an unexpected net loss in its 2QFY2011 results, Air Madagascar can only operate to the European Union through a charter agreement with EuroAtlantic Airways due to its presence on the EU Airspace blacklist, and Comores Aviation only operates a handful of destinations around the Vanilla Islands Group and Eastern Africa. Overall, future prospects for the group look bleak unless collaboration efforts are taken more seriously.
It has been said that if Uganda’s infrastructure were to be improved, its resources could feed the entire African continent. Instead, the nation is one of the poorest and least developed countries in the world. However the potential for further development is undeniably present, and this is what has drawn large international airlines to enter the market. British Airways, Emirates, EgyptAir, KLM and South African Airways have been in the market for years, but it is the entry of Middle Eastern carriers such as Gulf Air and Qatar Airways in Oct-2011 through Dec-2011 that is boosting the nation’s aviation standing.
The country’s main international airport in Entebbe expects to break 1.5 million passengers in 2011 due to these services and is undergoing extensive improvement work to attract more carriers. The Ugandan Government approved the right for foreign investors to develop the airport, which will likely see a consortium of Middle Eastern developers take interest. The country’s designated national carrier, Air Uganda, is improving its offering as well, and is on course to launch domestic and more international services under its turnaround business plan.
Air Mauritius’ largest markets were hit hard by the European debt crisis, resulting in a loss in its usually profitable second quarter. The airline reported a net loss in 2QFY2012 of EUR6.3 million, compared to a nearly EUR5 million profit in the same period last year. The European debt crisis that hit Mauritius’ largest markets contributed to the loss and has set the carrier up for future challenges. While Mauritius reported a small increase in tourism arrivals for Oct-2011, thanks to a new air link with China that increased Chinese tourism arrivals by 161%, tourism overall is expected to fall, placing further pressure on the carrier.
Hawaiian Airlines has again expanded its mainland routes, recently announcing that it will begin service between Kahului, Maui and San Jose, California. This is just the latest addition to a long history of airline service between the mainland and the Hawaiian Islands. And after some years of declining numbers, access to the Islands has never been better or more diverse.
Air Seychelles, which has reported its second consecutive year of losses in the FY2010/2011 period, has embarked on a restructuring programme under its new CEO. The carrier is crucial to the Seychelles’ tourism industry and has a renewed focus on the sector. Over half of all air arrivals reach the country on Air Seychelles flights, but the carrier has been struggling in recent years from high fuel prices and rising competition, particularly from Middle Eastern network carriers.
Improving connectivity to Europe is important as most of the island nation’s tourism comes from France, the UK, and as of 2009, Russia. Developing new source markets is vital but has proven difficult, as seen through Air Seychelles’ continuing attempts to establish an Asian hub.
Air Seychelles’ new CEO, Bram Steller, took office on 01-Oct-2011, replacing Maurice Loustau-Lalanne. Mr Steller is the carrier's fourth CEO in as many years.
Precision Air’s Initial Public Offering (IPO) will take place on 07-Oct-2011 when the carrier is listed on the Dar es Salaam Stock Exchange. Tanzania’s largest airline plans to use funds raised from the rights issue to fund fleet and route expansion. Tanzania’s transport sector is underdeveloped, although steps are being taken to encourage investment and improve infrastructure, in particular at rural airports. Better infrastructure will help drive domestic and regional trade, move the economy away from a reliance on agriculture and support tourism growth, all growing and important sectors in the Tanzanian economy.
Several different factors are drawing the attention of airport operators and investors to Africa – the investment by TAV in North Africa, the rise of the private sector in South Africa, new airport construction announcements, 100 companies reportedly seeking to bid to develop a new terminal at Nairobi Airport, increasing passenger traffic in all parts of the continent and even the fact that ACI has chosen to co-locate its annual general assembly this year with the regional Africa association in Marrakech. Perhaps the most notable event momentarily is the search by the Rwanda Government for a private sector investor/operator for the new USD350 million Bugesera International Airport. Not so long ago such a suggestion would have been met with scorn but, riven by civil war and genocide between 1990 and 1993, Rwanda has recovered, at least economically, better than anyone could have hoped.