Air Mauritius is one of those airlines you’ve probably heard of but never experienced. After all, its home base, Mauritius, is one of those bucket list locations that you’d like to get to but never quite do. But Air Mauritius is a decent little airline and Mauritius would make a great destination. Here’s the story of Air Mauritius. It might tempt you to book.
A joint venture between BOAC and Air France
Air Mauritius was formed in 1967. It was a consortium between Air France, BOAC, the Government of Mauritius and the local BOAC/Air France sales agent. Why were BOAC and Air France hopping into bed together?
Well, Mauritius was formerly a French colony known as the Isle de France until the British took it off their hands in an 1810 island invasion. The Brits were more gung-ho back then when it came to foreign affairs. The locals got their island back in 1968.
The embryonic airline didn’t start flying until 1972 when it began some inter-island services using a small turboprop aircraft. In 1973, it wet-leased a Vickers VC10 from British Airways to begin services to London via Nairobi. That was replaced with a Boeing 707-400 from British Airtours in 1975.
Within ten years it had two jets; the 707 and a Boeing 737-200 as well as two Twin Otter turboprops. The airline flew to Bombay, London, Nairobi, Réunion, Rodrigues, Rome and Tananarive. The Mauritian government took majority ownership. British Airways (formerly BOAC), Air France, and Air India all had minority stakes.
Air Mauritius flew Boeing 747-SPs for a time
In 1984, Air Mauritius wet-leased a Boeing 747-SP from South African Airways. It was christened Chateau de Réduit and flew to London. Air Mauritius picked up a second Boeing 747-SP in 1986, also from South African Airways. This one they called Chateau Mon Plaisir.
Moving towards the end of the 1980s, the airline had expanded operations to Singapore and Kuala Lumpur. In addition to the two 747s, it had added a second 707 to its fleet, retained the 737, and kept a single Twin Otter.
Two Boeing 767-200ERs entered service in 1988. They were called City of Port Louis and City of Curepipe. Frankly, I think Air Mauritius had temporarily dropped the ball when it came to naming planes. An ATR-42 came into service in the same year, seeing the end of the Twin Otters.
Growth in the 1990s
In the early 1990s, Air Mauritius took possession of an A340-300. It was named Paille en Queue and it was good to see a return to form in the naming department. This aircraft was used to launch services to Perth.
By now, Air Mauritius was flying a wider variety of destinations, including Brussels, Cape Town, Delhi, Durban, Frankfurt, Geneva, Harare, Hong Kong, Johannesburg, Kuala Lumpur, London, Mahe Island, Manchester, Maputo, Milan, Mumbai, Munich, Paris, Rodrigues Island, Rome, Singapore, St Denis de la Reunion, St Pierre de la Reunion, Vienna and Zürich.
Over the next few years, Air Mauritius added two more A340s to its fleet. It named one Pink Pigeon and the other Kestral. The airline was listed on the Mauritian Stock Exchange in 1995.
The listing saw a period of growth and change at Air Mauritius. The 747-SPs went and the airline ended up with five A340-300s. By the turn of the century, the 707s and 737 had also gone (the 767-200ERs remained). There were also now three ATRs flying local inter-island routes.
The end of the A340s and the rise of the A330s at Air Mauritius
In the early 2000s, Airbus 319s entered into service and primarily flew medium-haul routes into Africa. The A340-300s remained the backbone of the airline’s long-haul flying for much of the next two decades. Now, they are down to just two, replaced with new, more fuel-efficient A330s and a pair of swanky A350-900s.
In 2020, there are 14 aircraft in the Air Mauritius fleet that fly to 22 destinations. The base remains Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam International Airport (try saying that after a few Martinis) in Mauritius.
Like all airlines, the Air Mauritius destination board changes. Presently they fly to London, Dar es Saleem, Nairobi, Paris, Perth, Singapore, Antananarivo, Shanghai and several regional South African and Indian destinations.
An interesting airline with an interesting home
The airline is not a member of any of the big alliances, rather it is a member of the Vanilla Alliance, an alliance designed to improve interconnectivity around the Indian Ocean region.
Now flying for 48 years, Air Mauritius flew 1.7 million passengers last year. It made a loss of USD$31.7 million on revenue of USD$565 million. The airline has lost money in seven of the last twelve years.
Air Mauritius is an interesting airline. It has some pretty decent planes these days and if you were flying from say, Paris to Capetown, a weekend on a beach in Mauritius might be a pretty tempting stopover proposition.