The history of Air Mauritius
via the joint efforts of Air France, the Mauritian government, and the BOAC enterprise.
Each held a 27.5% stake, with the remaining 17.5% held by Rogers and Co. Ltd, who were the ticketing agent for Air France and BOAC in Mauritius.
Fast forward 46 years, and today our airline is sub-Saharan Africa’s fourth largest carrier and nine-time winner of the Indian Ocean Leading Airline prize, having won the award every year since 2005.
But how did we get here? We take a look back…
The early days
In the first five years of our existence our activities were purely confined to ground services, operating flights only in conjunction with Air France, Air India and British Airways. But in 1972, we leased a six-seater twin-engined Piper PA-31 Navajo aircraft from Air Madagascar and launched our inaugural service to Rodrigues with our very own livery.
A year later we wet-leased a Vickers VC10 from – an aircraft designed to operate medium and long-haul routes from short runways in Africa and south Asia – and began our first long distance service to London via Nairobi.
In 1975 our Navajo was replaced with a 16-seat Twin Otter, followed by the acquisition of a Boeing 707-400 from British in 1977, which helped us to begin a long-haul service in our own right. Two years later we acquired a second Twin Otter, and by 1980 we had a staff of 414 and a four plane fleet serving London, Nairobi, Bombay (Mumbai), Tananarive (Antananarivo), Rodrigues and Réunion.
By mid-1980, the government of Mauritius had become the majority shareholder. We leased an Air Madagascar Boeing 737 and acquired a Boeing 707-320B previously owned by South African Airways, which allowed us to launch routes to Durban and Johannesburg, and start a joint service with Air Madagascar for the Tananarive–Mauritius–Comoros–Nairobi and Réunion-Rodrigues runs.
A further Boeing 707 allowed us to expand our European network in 1983, with the addition of Rome and Zurich, and Paris in 1984.
By 1985, our fleet comprised two Boeing 707s, a Boeing 737 and a Boeing 747, and a Twin Otter. A weekly service to Singapore was added to our route network, and in June of that year we became members of the African Airlines Association. 1985 was also the year we took delivery of our first Bell 206 JetRanger helicopter.
Further developments during the late eighties included a non-stop service to Hong Kong in co-operation with Cathay Pacific, and flights to Kuala Lumpur, which began in 1988.
In 1988 the company was valued at US$122 million, and in April we took delivery of two Boeing 767s, named “City of Port Louis” and “City of Curepipe”, one of which set a record-breaking distance for commercial twinjets, when it flew non-stop to Mauritius from Halifax in Nova Scotia, Canada, covering some 9,000 miles (14,000km) in under 17 hours.
By 1990, our route map included Anatananarivo, Bombay, Durban, Geneva, Harare, Hong Kong, Johannesburg, Kuala Lumpur, London, Moroni, Munich, Nairobi, Paris, Réunion, Rodrigues, Rome, Singapore and Zurich, with a further route to Perth inaugurated in late 1991.
Later in the decade we became the first airline in the southern hemisphere to fly Airbus A340, with a second named “Pink Pigeon” purchased directly from Airbus in 1994 third, “Kestrel” in 1995. By this point we’d also launched services to Brussels and Cape Town and floated on the stock exchange of Mauritius.
The 21st Century
By early 2000 Air Mauritius employed 2,000 employees and had a ten-strong fleet made up of Boeing, Airbus and ATR aircraft, flying both passengers and 30,000+ annual tons of cargo around the globe. We ordered an A340-300 Enhanced in mid-2005, and received the last one ever built, putting it to work on our London Heathrow route shortly after delivery in December 2006.
A year later, we took delivery of the wide-body twin-engined A330, followed by a second aircraft of the same type in October 2009, taking our current fleet to 12. We also remain one of the few airlines in the world to offer a helicopter service, with two Bell Jet Rangers used for tour services.
oday, we serve 20 global destinations across four continentsrun a successful passenger loyalty scheme, Kestrelflyerand have over 2,300 members of staff based in Mauritius dedicated to serving our passengers around the world.
Photos: Air Mauritius Twin Otter - 1972 and 1975, A340-300