Air Austral plays its survival in Brussels

The French airline’s restructuring plan has been notified to the European Commission.

A restructuring plan for Air Austral, including an injection of fresh money of 55 million euros, has been submitted to the European Commission for approval, the CEO of the struggling Reunion airline announced on Friday.

“Our restructuring plan (…) has just been notified to the European Commission by the Interministerial Committee for Industrial Restructuring (CIRI),” Joseph Brema told his collaborators in a letter which AFP contacted. get a copy.

“The file is currently being investigated by Brussels”, added Mr. Brema, welcoming a “crucial step in the restructuring of our company”.

75% of customers lost between 2020 and 2021

Air Austral saw its finances damaged by the Covid-19 pandemic and the travel restrictions that accompanied it, sometimes stricter in Reunion than in mainland France.

The company lost three quarters of its customers in 2020-2021. At the end of 2021, its debt reached 161 million euros, in addition to 55 million loans by its shareholders, i.e. a total higher than its annual turnover at the time.

The State, for its part, guaranteed several loans and granted rescue aid, which received the green light from the European Commission, which ensures respect for balanced competition, but on condition that the company restructures.

Air Austral, which employed 848 people at the end of 2021, is currently 99% owned by a semi-public company, Sematra, bringing together in particular the Réunion region (73.5%), Caisse des dépôts (13.6%) and the department (11.4%).

According to Mr. Brema, who took office in June, the plan sent to Brussels on Friday comprises three parts: a commitment by Reunionese investors to contribute 55 million euros to the capital, a debt restructuring project, which makes the discussed with creditors and still needs to be approved by a commercial court, and a commercial strategy.

No merger with Corsair

“I remain, like our current reference shareholder Sematra, optimistic about the follow-up that will be given,” said Mr. Brema, saying he hoped “a rendering of the decision (in) the current (of) the first half of the month of October”.

This intervention by Reunionese investors rules out the possibility of a merger between Air Austral and its competitor Corsair, qualified at the end of 2021 as a possible “option” by the Minister of Public Accounts at the time Olivier Dussopt.

The company serves several destinations in the Indian Ocean and mainland France from Reunion, and operates ten aircraft: three Boeing 777s, two Boeing 787s and three Airbus A220s for long-haul and two Boeing 737s for medium-haul.

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