In an attempt to justify AirAsia X’s exit from Mauritius, the former chief executive officer of Air Mauritius Megh Pillay said Singaporeans and Malaysians are not big travelers, thus AirAsia X had to pack and go.
“The Singaporeans and Malaysians are not big travelers, or they don’t have much interest to travel to Mauritius, unlike what some people would want us to believe,” said Pillay in a statement to Le Defi, a daily portal in Port Louis.
Pillay was sacked as Air Mauritius CEO in November last year, only 8 months after his appointment. He is called the ‘wonder kid’ in the airline industry in Mauritius and is said to have opposed the opening of the Mauritius market to foreign low-cost airlines.
A change in leadership in Mauritius last month, which saw the resignation of Sir Aneerood Jugnauth and the appointment of his son Pravind Jugnauth as Prime Minister could have triggered AirAsia’s exit, said a source to The Independent.
Sir Aneerood, a firebrand leader, wanted the Air Corridor between Singapore and Mauritius to be a success, hoping that the tiny Indian Ocean Island would benefit from Asian tourism and that business between Mauritius and Asia would thrive.
It is not known yet what are the thoughts of the current Prime Minister, but one of his advisors said Air Mauritius will benefit from the exit of AirAsia X, which confirms the possibility of a politically charged lobbying against AirAsia X flying to Mauritius.
The political powerplay in Port Louis is expected to steer the country away from the so called ‘Mauritius-Asia corridor’ said a source.
On the other hand, Megh Pillay said people must be naive to believe that in commercial aviation, seat capacity does not follow demand for travel.
“Believe the contrary that demand does not influence seat capacity is pure naivety,” he said.
In statements that sound more like an outburst of joy following the retreat of AirAsia X from Mauritius, Pillay said those who wanted to sell a dream to the Mauritius government only added pressure, loss of time and waste of money for Air Mauritius.
However, the Mauritius Tourism Promotion Board (MTPA) told Malay Mail in a recent interview conducted in Mauritius the idea of having AirAsia X flying to Mauritius was to bring more Malaysian and Asian tourists in the country.
The MTPA also said studies showed Malaysians, Singaporeans, and Asian tourists preferred family-oriented tourism, which Mauritius was ready to offer.
The high official who spoke to Malay Mail said a variety of water and land activities that could be done in groups were available in Mauritius, including halal food which had become one of the salient elements in attracting Malaysian and Singaporean tourists of Islamic faith.
The independent reported on Tuesday that a source had revealed political and ethnic pressure was behind AirAsia X pullout from Mauritius.
Nevertheless, Pillay blasted the idea of opening up the local market to such an operator (AirAsia X) in the peak season, knowing it will vacate the scene at the first sign of a slowdown – in seat occupancy – has allowed for a distortion of the market which is only prejudiced to Air Mauritius.
“It could not be beneficial to our tourism expansion plans,” he said.
Picture Credit: Le Defi. Megh Pillay on the left.