Air Mauritius plans to close its route to Durban from October, but tour operators are confident they will be able to re-accommodate clients booked to depart for the island from Durban.
The impact on traveller numbers out of South Africa is expected to be minimal as the airline will launch a second daily flight from Johannesburg, which will provide additional capacity during the peak-season.
“We are certainly disappointed at this news as effectively our Durban passengers are losing the convenience of a direct service to Mauritius. However, we have been given plenty of advance warning to work with this. Plans are being made to accommodate the forward bookings already in place and for all new bookings we will work with the new schedule via Johannesburg,” explained Holiday Tours Product Manager, Margaret Park.
“There may be a few bookings for December but those can be sorted out quickly,” agreed Beachcomber Tours Managing Director, Terry Munro. He added that an increase in Air Mauritius’ Cape Town service would also be well received.
For affected passengers, Air Mauritius Regional Manager: Southern Africa and Latin America, Carla Da Silva, added they would be re-booked onto an alternative MK flight to their final destination at no extra cost, provided the itinerary was issued on a single ticket. The airline will also provide full refunds without penalty for cancellations. Travellers missing their onward connection to or from Mauritius will also be offered up to two free nights accommodation.
Airline tries to cut costs
The airline announced the planned schedule change last week when the airline reported record losses for the quarter ended December 31, 2011 of €2.8-million compared to a profit of €12.6-million last year. It said the planned route withdrawals, including Durban, was part of an “ambitious but realistic cost-savings plan” that would also deliver a boost to revenues.
“Having reviewed Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban, it is far more lucrative to focus on the economic powerhouse of South Africa, being Gauteng, for future growth prospects,” added Ms. Da Silva.
“Having established a long market presence in Durban, it is with regret that the Durban route is being suspended. However, we assure you that Air Mauritius will continue to have market presence in Durban as it continues to be an important market for Air Mauritius. With the reinforced flights via Johannesburg to Mauritius and beyond, we will continue to serve the Durban market effectively,” she said.
The introductory date for the additional Johannesburg service has yet to be announced.