The flagship carrier of Tunisia – Société Tunisienne de l’Air, or more commonly called Tunisair – has been serving the European market for years. Thousands of travellers use the airline carrier for their holidays.
But if reports are to be believed, people planning to travel by Tunisair may experience long delays in 2020, as the company implements a massive overhaul of its operations.
Airline faces numerous problems in 2019
Tunisair has been in the grips of a dire financial problem in the past year; a problem that seems to have affected the company’s 2020 operations as well.
A lack of financing created a scarcity of spare parts for its aircraft, thereby grounding some of its flights. Others requiring minor repairs had to face extended delays, as the company had a hard time procuring the necessary tools and parts.
By April 2019, Tunisair’s delay rate increased, and only 32% of the flights took-off on time. This delay has taken a small toll on the airline provider’s traffic rate – which reduced by 0.4% compared to 2018.
Competition from other African, European, and Gulf airlines has also subjected the carrier to a loss of passengers. This has led to reduced revenues and an inability to support operations.
Job cuts and fleet redesign expected in 2020
Tunisair has been in a state of loss since early 2011 when it lost tourism to the civil strife that occurred during the ousting of President Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali. Reducing expenses is the only way forward for the sinking company. It plans to curb its debt by laying off 400 of its employees in 2020.
Currently, staff wages account for one of the most substantial expenses at Tunisair. The company is home to 8000+ staff members (to support its short line of 28 aircraft) – a number it has failed to curb because of intense labour union pressure.
In 2018, Tunisair wanted to lay off 1200 workers and asked for Government support. However, the negotiation fell through, and the company had to continue supporting employee expenses.
The 2020 layoffs could be brutal – with the company unwilling to take no for an answer. However, this would also increase delays and flight cancellations, as employee strikes are expected across airports around the world.
Another cause for delays is the fleet redesign that Tunisair is undertaking. The company is in the process of revamping its fleet structure for the 2020-2030 period. As part of the fleet expansion, Tunisair welcomed its very first ATR72-600 in November 2019.
It is also expected to take the delivery of two more ATR72-600s and two A320 Neos in 2020 and 2021. The airline is even in talks with a lender to lease two A320 Ceos and one A330 Ceo.
The company hopes to finish the fleet restructuring at least part-way before the Open Skies agreement with the EU comes into effect. According to the agreement, all restrictions to flying directly into Tunisia from Europe will be lifted for all airports, except for Tunis-Carthage International Airport. After four years, even Tunis-Carthage will be open to direct EU flights. This might bring the dying Tunisia tourism industry back to life.
However, until the low-cost Tunisair’s new fleet is up and running, travellers can expect delays as numerous technical problems and an absence of spare parts plague the existing fleet.