The choice of flying with Air Madagascar no longer seem that natural, now that militants within the airline’s ranks have boycotted the handling of Air France flights when landing at Antananarivo, compelling the French national airline to divert flights to Reunion Island’s Roland Garros International Airport. From there, passengers have been transported on to the Madagascar capital by chartered flight.
Air Madagascar, struggling for a long period of time, has been on the EU Blacklist for many years now over both safety and oversight concerns by the European Union’s aviation body EASA, and while, when using a leased Airbus A340 with French registration, flying to Paris every other day, Air France offers daily departures.
Hotheads among the Air Madagascar staff, besides boycotting the handling of Air France flights, have also demanded that the bilateral air services agreement be changed to guarantee their airline a 50 percent traffic share, something experts say is entirely unrealistic.
“The decision to fly with one airline as opposed to another is based very often on client perception. If clients perceive an airline as unsafe – after all is Air Madagascar on the EU Blacklist – or as unreliable, then they move their bookings to other airlines. If they think that the ground and inflight service is less good on one airline as opposed to another, they take similar decisions. Price is not always a deciding factor when choosing one airline over the other,” commented a Nairobi-based source with some insight into the affairs of the island carrier.
Air France reportedly uplifts 80 percent of the traffic between France and Madagascar, and as a result of the home airline’s woes, Kenya Airways has doubled their flights from Antananarivo to Nairobi to tap into market demand.
The Madagascar government reacted sharply and arrested some of the ringleaders, stating in public that it is the issue of safety with had put Air Madagascar on the EU list, not the government’s failure to protect Air Madagascar.
In 2009, when the political troubles of the island spilled over into the streets of the capital, arrivals of tourists took a nosedive from the previous year from 375,000 arrivals to less than half that number – only 163,000.
More recently, numbers have shown an upwards trend again with more than 250,000 visitors at almost the same level as Seychelles and only a quarter of the arrivals of Mauritius – a sign of a deeply-troubled tourism industry which should do much better but, due to such woes as political, aviation related, health related, security related, and for poor reputation and perception, has yet to find a new footing.