Friday, September 27, 2013

► RÉUNION: Air Austral's Ewa Airlines due to launch from October 29 as A380 talks go on (and on).

Air Austral
Réunion-based airline, Air Austral (UU), has set October 29 as the launch date for its new regional startup, Ewa Airlines, which will serve the Indian Ocean region as well as Mozambique and Tanzania with an ATR72-500.

Speaking in Paris during the ongoing Tourism Fair there, CEO Marie-Joseph Malé said that while his airline's investment in the venture was relatively small (EUR4.4million split between the airline (52.3%) and its other partners, the Mayotte Chamber of Commerce (22.7%) and Ylang Invest (25%)), the move is strategic as it benefits not only Ewa's hub - Mayotte - but it also allows Air Austral to get its foot into the strategic Mozambican market.
"Mayotte is centrally located in the Mozambique Channel, which will undergo major economic development following  the discovery of huge gas fields there," he said.
As reportedly previously, Ewa Airlines will serve six destinations throughout Madagascar, the Comoros, Tanzania and Mozambique.

Regarding Air Austral's outstanding order with Airbus for two A380s, Mr Malé said protracted talks with the European manufacturer are still ongoing but offered no hint as to when, if ever, a deal would be reached.

Meanwhile, the Indian Ocean airline is again faced with legal action from Corsair International (SS) over La-Réunion's involvement in the EUR63.5million recapitalization of Air Austral by its shareholder Sematra, a company 46% owned by the local councils of Réunion with the remaining shares owned by banks and other private partners, in 2011.

In its appeal to the court, the initial petition having been dismissed, Corsair claims this aid should have been brought to the attention of the European Commission given the state's involvement in Sematra. In their defence, the local government states that they are only "informed investors" and hence the funds provided Air Austral do not constitute a "state bailout", which would be subject to the European Commission's agreement.

The local press reports that the judge in the dispute is reportedly leaning towards Corsair's version, and has questioned Sematra's definition of the term "investor".