Air Austral has revised plans to begin its Airbus A220 services, with the date now pushed back to early 2021. Initially, the airline planned to launch its fleet of Airbus A220s by December this year before changing its schedule.
While the airline hasn’t released an official statement detailing the reasons behind the delay, the coronavirus pandemic has likely played a significant part in the decision. Flights are now set to begin in late February 2021 out of Roland Garros Airport in Reunion.
Stay informed: Sign up for our daily aviation news digest.
Details of the new launch date
Since Air Austral confirmed an order for three Airbus A220-300’s back in October 2019, the carrier planned for a launch date of late 2020. However, according to Routesonline, the airline has filed for a brand-new schedule which will push the launch back months.
The new launch date is now set at 22 February 2021 for flights from Reunion to Mauritius. This route will begin as a weekly service before expanding into a twice-weekly service from 11 March 2021. Additionally, Air Austral will provide weekly flights from Reunion to Antananarivo from 06 March next year.
Why has the launch been delayed?
Details are still scarce on why the airline has delayed the launch of its Airbus fleet. However, much like the rest of the aviation industry, the COVID-19 pandemic has almost certainly been a significant factor in the decision.
Air Austral has been hit financially over the past six months due to a staggering drop in tourism in the region. In July, the airline signed a deal with unions to freeze worker wages over the next three years, demonstrating the precarious financial position the company is in.
Which routes will the Airbus A220 fly?
Air Austral ordered its three Airbus A220-300 to complement, and possibly replace, its short-haul fleet of two Boeing 737-800s. While the aircraft has an operating range of up to 6,000km, under current plans it will be used to make the relatively brief trips from Reunion to Antananarivo and Mauritius.
The addition of the new planes opens up several options for Air Austral in the future. The range of the Airbus A220-300 makes flights as far as India and the Middle East possible. However, it is likely the A220-300, the smallest model in the Airbus range, will remain a regional aircraft. Under current plans, the A220s will be split into two cabin classes, with 132 seats in total.
What next for Air Austral?
Air Austral serves a variety of international routes, with flights running as far as Paris and Bangkok. The new Airbus A220s reveal that the airline is presently focusing on consolidating its regional market. As stated by chief executive Marie-Joseph Male:
“The economic and operational performance of the A220 enables us to consider rationally and efficiently the development of our regional network.”
After the carrier’s short-haul fleet has been modernized, the company has set its eye on improving its long-haul aircraft. While its fleet of 777-300ERs are relatively modern having been produced in 2016, the airline is “continuing to reflect” on long-haul strategies for the future.
Are you excited about the potential of Air Austral’s new Airbus fleet?
The schedule information in this article was originally published by Routesonline