Friday, August 2, 2013

► RÉUNION: Air Austral concedes that any A380 delivery would not be in an all-economy configuration.

Air Austral
La Réunion-based carrier Air Austral (UU) CEO Marie-Joesph Malé says his carrier will not take delivery of the A380 in an all-economy lay out citing the threat to its premium traffic such a layout would present to the airline's overall viability.

In an interview with Apex Editor's Blog, Mr Malé said reports that an order for two A380-800s, placed under his predecessor, Air Austral founder and CEO Gerard Ethève, in 2009 and originally slated for delivery in 2014, had been cancelled were unfounded claiming "all options" were still on the table, including the possibility of a mixed A380, which would better suit Air Austral's model. According to Mr Malé, Air Austral has found particular success with the premium economy product as it has “a segment of clients that really cannot pay for business but want some level of comfort for flights around 11 hours.”

On the issue of an all-economy lay out with the A380, he said the delivery of an all-economy A380 and its large capacity without premium traffic would "threaten to cannibalise Air Austral's network" and ultimately “really endanger the existence of the airline.” The order's placement is said to have been symptomatic of what Malé describes as Air Austral having “really exponential growth which didn’t make sense and was evidently loss-making.”

On whether Airbus was open to the possibility of altering the A380 order into smaller aircraft more suited to his airline, Mr Malé responded that  talks with the European manufacturer were still on going.

Since coming to the helm of the struggling Indian Ocean carrier, Mr Malé has overseen a number of cost cutting measures including the sale of two aircraft; a factory-fresh B777-200LR and a B777-300ER as well as the suspension of its more exotic routes, namely Paris - Réunion - Sydney - Noumeà in New Caledonia.