Air Madagascar, the country’s national carrier, is set for an upgrade after a deal to lease two new Airbus planes from France was reached.
“Air France will give Air Madagascar the planes on a monthly lease for six years,” Malagasy President Andry Rajoelina said in an interview yesterday, though he did not reveal how much the arrangement will cost.
However, the terms of the deal effectively mean that the airline can buy the planes after six years. Air France will purchase the two A340, which will then be branded with Air Madagascar colours.
“I’m proud that this idea that can be realised under the transition. It is [not] our pleasure to eternally lease out,” he added.
President Rajoelina said he wants Madagascar to attain world-class standards like neighbouring island Mauritius, which has 10 Airbuses.
However, the purchase of the two A340s for Air Madagascar has drawn criticism, with some analysts saying Boeing planes would have been more profitable than Airbuses.
The decision to buy Airbuses may have been influenced by the current regime’s close relationship with France over the US.
Efforts to revamp the troubled airline with two Boeing 767s last July hit a brick wall after the planes were blacklisted by the European Union over safety concerns.
However, local commentators have questioned the wisdom of a six-year lease on planes whose quality will diminish with time, making them a financial burden.
They add that buying planes for the national carrier should not be a priority given the country’s rising level of poverty.