LONDON — Air Mauritius will acquire six Airbus A350-900 aircraft in a bid to modernize its fleet.
The order is split between a memorandum of understanding with Airbus for four of the jets, while the other two will be leased from AerCap for twelve years. It will begin operating its leased aircraft in 2017, and will begin receiving its direct-order jets in 2019.
“It a very important [milestone] in the history of this airline,” said an emotional Air Mauritius Chairman Dass Thomas. Mr. Thomas would know. Having started as a ticket agent with the airline some years ago, Mr. Thomas rose through the ranks to oversee the airline in 2012. Perhaps unfortunately for Mr. Thomas that was the same year the airline was forced to revamp its business model after currency problems and rising oil prices nearly crippled it.
The subsequent two-year plan to keep the airline afloat appear to be working, according to company executives (second from left in photo). It posted an annual profit in the year-ending in March of $10.8 million US. It also boosted its SkyTrax passenger experience rating from three to four stars, a product of a fresh focus of the inflight experience.
But the carrier continues to face challenges going forward. Until the A350s enter its fleet several years from now it will continue to utilize its aging fleet of Airbus A340s. Pressure from Emirates, which sends two A380 super jumbos to the island nation per day, is also placing a pinch on the carrier.
Thus the carrier is also planning to replace its short-haul fleet, a process still in progress. Executives stated they were targeting a decision in the fourth quarter of 2014. Of the six Airbus A340s in its long-haul fleet, three will be returned to their lessor, while the other half will be sold off down the road.
Wednesday’s order is so far the only A350 order of the show. Airbus’ COO John Leahy brushed off concerns that demand was waning, stating that the “biggest problem for A350 is lack of production slots, not lack of demand.”