Tunisia: Tunisair Prepares to Negotiate Its Debts With Banks, Pending Recovery in 2022

/Nedra Boukesra) — Tunisair, whose turnover has been divided by three, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, is negotiating with local banks rescheduling its debts amounting to 2,200 million dinars, over 12 years, CEO of the national carrier Khaled Chelly told the national press.

Indeed, the company is expecting its activity hit hard by the crisis that affects the transport industry in the world to resume in 2022, with the lifting of health restrictions and the awaited exit of Tunisia from red lists of high-risk countries for coronavirus, Tunisair Deputy Chief Executive, Sales Karim Gueddiche told TAP.

Initially scheduled to start this year, the resumption has been blocked by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and health restrictions taken by some countries, he said.

"The company's turnover was divided by 3, falling from 1,500 million dinars in 2019, to about 500 million dinars in 2020.

Tunisair also suffered a 70% drop in the number of passengers, to 1 million passengers in 2020. Forecasts for 2021, expect the same number of people. This situation is obviously reflected in the finances of the company, whose fixed costs have declined to 400 million dinars, this year, against about 480 million dinars, usually.

Meanwhile, the national company is working to optimize its network with the suspension of some routes and the recovery and normalise its financial situation, so as to pay its debts to the Tunisian Civil Aviation and Airports Authority (OACA) and suppliers including the SNDP (National Oil Distribution Company) and the National Social Security Fund, said the CEO of Tunisair.

800-MD turnover expected in 2022

The company, which should carry 1.8 million passengers and increase its turnover to more than 800 million dinars in 2022, is preparing a programme to reduce costs through the reduction of its structures abroad and in particular, its offices in Nice and Toulouse (France), Belgrade (Serbia), Cotonou (Benin) and Lebanon. This is besides the reduction of its office in Vienna (Austria). Tunisair also intends to keep only profitable flights. Thus, Tunis-Nantes or Brussels-Djerba flights will be scrapped.

The company also continues the overhaul of its fleet management, as part of its recovery plan, opting for the "dry lease" (leasing aircraft without crew) and for the "sell and leaseback", which is to sell aircraft and lease them back for a long time. This management method is currently adopted by major companies such as "Emirates".

In addition, Tunisair will receive 5 airbus A 320neo aircraft, the first of which will be delivered next December. 3 others will follow in 2022 and the fifth is scheduled for 2024. This programme allows the company to maintain 15 to 17 aircraft in operation.

With the arrival of new aircraft and the planned release of 11 others, the national carrier intends to rejuvenate its fleet, whose average age will drop from 18 years to 10 years, according to Gueddiche.

Finally, the official welcomed the improvement of the punctuality of services, saying the delays recorded in flights, was limited to 20 or 25 minutes during the summer season.

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