Protesting Tribal High Chiefs Cause Air Calédonie Flight Shutdown

Air Calédonie has paused its domestic flight operations until the end of the month after island chiefs came…

Protesting Tribal High Chiefs Cause Air Calédonie Flight Shutdown

Air Calédonie has paused its domestic flight operations until the end of the month after island chiefs came out against a compulsory health pass. The tribal chiefs control airports on several of New Caledonia’s islands and have shut them down in protest, causing Air Calédonie to halt its operations.

Air Calédonie has parked their four ATRS until November 1. Photo: ATR

Unrest in the islands over vaccinations and a health pass

Ten days ago, New Caledonia issued a health pass for its 272,000 residents after a COVID-19 outbreak in September infected approximately 2,000 people and killed 200. The pass allows access to a variety of discretionary activities, like going to a restaurant or catching a domestic flight to one of New Caledonia’s 55 odd islands.

You don’t need to be vaccinated to get the health pass (only 52% of the French territory’s adult population is fully vaccinated). The pass is also available to those who’ve recovered from COVID-19 or have proof of a recent negative status test.

Louis Mapou, President of the New Caledonian Government, has the country largely locked down to help contain the virus. However, Air Calédonie had continued to operate scheduled flights to keep the territory’s islands connected and ferry essential supplies and workers around.

Like everywhere else, not everyone is a fan of vaccinations and the government’s push to get everyone vaccinated. Earlier this month, Henri Dokucas Naisseline, high chief of the Gaumha district on the island of Mare, halted a government vaccination drive among tribes under his control, saying the vaccine was dangerous and making it compulsory was an affront to human dignity.

It follows he’s not a fan of the health pass either. It’s a view that’s gained some currency with other high chiefs, particularly those scattered around New Caledonia’s Loyalty Islands. The chiefs object to certain advantages being made available to health pass holders that are not available to non-health pass holders.

Air Calédonie’s domestic network. Source: Air Calédonie

High chiefs shut airports, causing Air Calédonie to halt operations

These island chiefs control several airports around New Caledonia and have decided to close them in protest against the introduction of the health pass. As a result, Air Calédonie flights from its Noumea base to Mare, Lifou and Ouvea are canceled for the remainder of October.

Air Calédonie is an interesting little airline with a fleet of four ATR 72-600s. The airline should not be confused with its big brother international airline called Aircalin (also known as Air Calédonie International), which is also based in Noumea.

The airline is majority-owned by the New Caledonian Government, but the Loyalty Islands Province, the North Province, and the South Province all own significant chunks of the airline. Consequently, as is happening now, Air Calédonie is a pawn in a tussle between the majority owner and high chiefs out in the islands whose provincial councils representing the tribes also have equity stakes in the airline.

An Air Calédonie ATR at Koné. Photo: Air Calédonie

Air France has an 0.53% stake in the airline, and the power of the high chiefs to cause an airline to shut down probably has some head-scratching going on in Paris.

We are aware of the difficulty of the situation for people who had reservations on these flights,” says Air Calédonie.“Air Calédonie expresses its full support to Caledonians who are going through a difficult period.”

The airline tentatively plans to resume flying on November 1.

Source : Simple Flying More   

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Court Rules easyJet And Lufthansa Can By Air Berlin’s Assets

LOT Polish Airlines has failed in its bid to stop easyJet and Lufthansa from buying former Air Berlin…

Court Rules easyJet And Lufthansa Can By Air Berlin’s Assets

LOT Polish Airlines has failed in its bid to stop easyJet and Lufthansa from buying former Air Berlin assets. On Wednesday, the European General Court found easyJet and Lufthansa did not get an unfair market advantage by buying the assets.

Lufthansa and easyJet have won a four-year battle to acquire Air Berlin assets. Photo: Getty Images

Lufthansa & easyJet take former Air Berlin planes, employees, and slots

Air Berlin filed for bankruptcy in August 2017 and ceased flying two months later. Lufthansa and easyJet promptly moved to buy Air Berlin assets and hire Air Berlin staff.

According to Reuters, easyJet paid US$46.5 million to buy some of Air Berlin’s operations at Tegel airport, leases for up to 25 Airbus A320 aircraft, and hired around 1,000 former Air Berlin’s pilots and cabin crew.

Lufthansa paid $248 million to take over leases on 80 of Air Berlin’s 130 planes and crew from Air Berlin’s LGW subsidiary. However, Lufthansa was required to surrender some slots at Dusseldorf as part of the deal. The two airlines also picked up Air Berlin slots at Zurich, Hamburg, Munich, and Stuttgart airports.

All up, around half of Air Berlin’s approximately 8,000 employees found work at either easyJet or Lufthansa.

Air Berlin had around 130 mostly leased planes and 8,000 employees when it failed. Photo: Getty Images

European airlines unhappy about the deals

But several European airlines expressed unease over the deals, suggesting it would allow easyJet and Lufthansa to become too dominant in Germany. Ryanair’s Michael O’Leary said the Lufthansa deal was a “stitch-up” that would see Lufthansa own 95% of the German domestic market.

Willie Walsh, then boss of British Airways’ owner IAG, said he had significant concerns about the deal. But the European Commission approved the deal later in 2017. That resulted in LOT Polish Airlines suing the commission in the General Court. LOT said the transactions broke the EU’s rules governing fair competition.

Over three years later, LOT got a result on Wednesday, and it wasn’t what the airline hoped for.

“The General Court dismisses the actions of Polskie Linie Lotnicze ‘LOT’ against the Commission decisions authorizing the mergers concerning the acquisition by easyJet and Lufthansa, respectively, of certain assets of the Air Berlin group,” the judgment read.

The General Court found Lufthansa and easyJet would not gain unfair market advantages by buying Air Berlin’s assets, noting the European Commission had a “margin of discretion” when ruling on complex economic transactions like the disputed Air Berlin deals.

The court said the slots acquired by easyJet and Lufthansa did not give either airline an unfair advantage and said the airports where the two airlines gained the slots – Dusseldorf, Zurich, Hamburg, Munich, Stuttgart, and BerlinTegel, were relatively uncongested.

easyJet Berlin Getty
easyJet took over leases for 25 former Air Berlin Airbus A320s. Photo: Getty Images

Slots behind Air Berlin’s value

Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr was confident from the outset. In 2017, he dismissed complaints from rivals like Michael O’Leary. Rejecting market dominance claims, Mr Spohr said even if Lufthansa acquired all of Air Berlin’s market share, an expanded Lufthansa would still command less than half the German domestic market.

When Air Berlin failed, it was Germany’s second-biggest airline with a 14% domestic market share. Air Berlin was one of Etihad’s now fabled bad airline investments. The Abu Dhabi-based airline was the biggest shareholder went Air Berlin went under.

Etihad’s decision to cease funding the failing airline sealed its fate. Before Etihad closed its checkbook, they’d pumped €1.8 billion in Air Berlin. Most of Air Berlin’s aircraft were leased. The airline’s most important assets were its slots scattered around Germany’s airports. At its Berlin-Tegel hub, Air Berlin had over 45% of the slots.

LOT Polish Airlines can appeal to the European Court of Justice. The airline says it is reviewing Wednesday’s decision.

Source : Simple Flying More   

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