As soon as new carrier Syphax Airlines announced its intention to operate the Tunis / Paris line from the international airport of Tunis Carthage, a controversy erupted between its owner Mohamed Frikha and Tunisair on the grounds that Syphax can receive airport assistance from Tunisair Handling only in Sfax-Thyna Airport.
This statement fueled a lively debate on social networks where Tunisair is accused of regionalism. In order to provide clarification on the subject, Africanmanager contacted Mr. Rabah Jerad, CEO of Tunisair who reaffirmed his commitment not to speak on the subject.
Tunisair is currently the subject of a fierce campaign on social networks, what is your reaction?
We cannot talk about the reaction of our airline. Tunisair is an operator and Syphax too. And it is up to the Department of Transportation to find solutions to this problem of market access.
How do you explain the reaction of Tunisair towards Syphax?
We work on a well determined sector and we cannot encourage unfair competition, especially in the same market. We can be complementary but cannot be competitive in a market that is already lost to us.
Syphax is a company that has not yet commenced operations and has filed its case to the Ministry of Transport which will grant it permissions based on what it has filed.
How do things look to Tunisair today?
Tunisair, which operates in a competitive environment, is facing several difficulties at the international level due to several factors.
Oil, which was at 90 dollars the barrel in 2011, reached $ 125 a barrel now. We spent about 30% of our expenses to control the impact of oil prices on the expenses of Tunisair. Add to this the economic crisis that hit several countries and which has a great influence on the decrease in the number of passengers. At the global air transport, the margin will be around 0.5% in 2012. Tunisair is no exception to that context, also compounded by the internal situation of the country which caused the loss of a large number of tourists and travelers.
Can we say that the situation Tunisair has improved compared to 2011?
Compared to 2011, from the passenger point of view, we have a very significant improvement and we have even exceeded, for the first quarter of 2012, the number of passengers in the first quarter of 2010. But the problem that still exists is that expenses increase more than revenues, thereby, the economic situation of the company has not improved. I’ll also mention that all social agreements that were concluded after the Revolution had a negative impact on the payroll. Add to that the other expenses which are constantly increasing, and even exceed revenues despite the huge efforts made by Tunisair.
During the first quarter of 2012, the increase in the number of passengers compared to 2011 exceeded 50%.
Is there a strategy implemented by Tunisair to reduce its losses?
Since we work in a highly competitive environment, we found ourselves obliged to review our prices and tariffs down to get our market share and have our staff and planes on duty and thus reduce our losses.
We have announced special rates for workers abroad. We established for 2012 an entire regime of preferential rates compared to 2011 to encourage workers to return to Tunisia by providing facilities for them to travel with their families. For other markets, a discount is granted according to specifics.
You have just signed an agreement with Thomas Cook, what is the contribution of this convention?
This is a convention without obligation of result that gives priority to Tunisia to be consulted by the various Belgian tour operators while offering attractive prices for using Tunisair for charter flights.
As we have signed with the FTAV and ONTT, we signed with Thomas Cook to encourage tourists to come to Tunisia. We will probably sign in the future with other operators whenever we find an agreement with special relations for Tunisair. Negotiations are already underway between Tunisair and Thomas Cook Germany.