Air Transport World

Air Madagascar improving despite domestic burden.

Air Madagascar improving despite domestic burden

Air Madagascar is one of the industry's lesser known airlines even though it has been a Boeing 747 operator since 1979 and advertises itself as "one of the world's densest domestic route systems.' Both the 747 and the domestic route system have been factors in the grave financial problems that troubled the company in the early 1980s and which were only solved by drastic action on the part of the government of the island republic.

Like the airline, Madagascar is a little known country despite being the world's fourth largest island with a population of over 10 million. Located in the Indian Ocean 250 miles from Africa's southeast coast, the country gained its independence from France in 1960.

The French developed civil aviation in Madagascar and when the airline was set up in 1962 (initially under the unfortunate name of Madair) as the national airline of the country, Air France held over 40% of the shares with 51% in the hands of the government. Frenchmen occupied all the management positions.

Today Air Madagascar is completely managed by Madagascans and has been for many years. The Air France holding has been progressively reduced and currently comprises a mere 1% of the company's share capital. Nevertheless a special relationship continues to exist between the two airlines, particularly in respect to the trunk route between Madagascar and France.

Air Madagascar's 747 is maintained by Air France and for several years it was flown by crews of the French airline. Under a pool arrangement between the two airlines the aircraft makes three round trips weekly between Madagascar and France, once as an Air Madagascar flight, once as an Air France flight and once as a joint Air Madagascar/Air France flight. Additionally the 747 is leased to Air France to make a weekly flight from Paris to East Africa and back. When the aircraft is undergoing heavy maintenance--it has currently logged some 24,000 hours--a substitute 747 is supplied by Air France.

The Air Madagascar 747 is a Combi to take care of the large amount of freight that moves southbound from Europe. …

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