Air Madagascar, the country’s flag carrier is reeling from labor strikes that have gone on for a month so far. The result is that the country of Madagascar–the fourth largest island in the world, mind you–is seeing significant tourism losses, which will be particularly felt during the summer high season.Faced with such a dilemma, the Malagasy Minister of Transport and Tourism, Ulrich Andriatiana, has reported that he’s been in talks with foreign airlines to provide domestic air service, aka cabotage rights.
Cabotage is the transport of goods or passengers between two points in the same country by a vessel or an aircraft registered in another country. Originally a shipping term, cabotage now covers aviation, railways, and road transport. It is “trade or navigation in coastal waters, or, the exclusive right of a country to operate the air traffic within its territory”.
Its an interesting idea, and I wouldn’t be surprised if someone far smarter than I would be able to make it work. Perhaps some neighbors, like South African Airways, that likely has the right make-up of planes (I suspect it would be primarily turboprop, but last I checked, Air Madagascar also has a 737 in their fleet).
Here’s me thinking even further afield, something like Etihad Partnership would be great for this, assuming they have the skillset (read pilots), it seems like they might have the desired aircraft sizes in their Etihad Regional (formerly Darwin) fleet.
Of course the implications of a plan like this, if successful, will have on other countries could be meaningful. So many countries try–repeatedly–and fail to have a national airline. What if there was a way to provide governments the peace of mind that a national or flagged carrier can provide, yet without the financial issues?By offered cabotage rights, I would think a country is essentially accepting that they don’t have a strong enough domestic market to justify having their own airline. But that isn’t a bad thing. Not every country can sustain its own airline! I’m sure it is a whole lot more complicated than how I’ve laid it out, but, it will certainly be interesting to watch. I can’t say I’ve seen this approach elsewhere off the top of my head, but I’m sure it has to have happened in the past.
What do you think about smaller countries offering cabotage rights?