Seychelles and COVID-19: Flights from Europe likely to be suspended, official says
British Airways is one of the airlines with connecting flights to Seychelles. (Joena Meme)
(Seychelles News Agency) - Flights to Seychelles by European airlines are likely to be suspended in the coming weeks in view of the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, although the island nation's airport remains open to support other air services, said a top official on Thursday.
The general manager of the Seychelles Civil Aviation Authority (SCAA), Florence Marengo, said, "We are recording a decrease in frequencies from all the carriers serving the route which is normal as there is a temporary ban on visitors from Europe, our major market."
She told SNA that to date there is no ban on flights to and from Seychelles, an archipelago in the western Indian Ocean.
European airlines connecting to the island nation include British Airways, Air France, Edelweiss Air, Condor and Air Austral.
She said that "Qatar will also be suspending flights up to May."
According to SCAA, there are 14 airlines with connecting flights to Seychelles, including Air Seychelles. Weekly frequencies currently stand at 77 and without the airlines that will be suspending their flights, this will be reduced to 60.
Marengo said the airport will maintain its 24-hour operations to continue providing support to international and domestic air services, be it for cargo or passengers.
"It is important to note that airlines serving the route also carry goods (cargo), quintessential in ensuring that the economy continues to run in this difficult time," she added.
Marengo said that with the COVID-19 outbreak now a pandemic, SCAA is reviewing its current measures in place in a bid to reinforce preventive efforts.
The Ambassador of France to Seychelles, Dominique Mas, told SNA that the Embassy is "establishing a network to respond to French nationals and tourists currently in Seychelles who wish to return to France."
He added that the Embassy is "in constant contact with the Seychelles Civil Aviation Authority, travel agencies, and airline companies to see the availability of flights. We also have many tourists from Reunion in Seychelles at present, who also need to return to Reunion. We are trying to ensure that flights are not totally interrupted."
Mas said that the French Embassy has also sent messages on social media advising French nationals to cut back on their holidays and to return home.
He said that this is not because French nationals are scared of the situation in Seychelles, but rather because of the fact that Europe is slowly closing down all its borders.
Air France is not embarking any Europeans to fly to Seychelles "but Seychellois who wants to return to Seychelles might be able to do so, but will be put immediately under quarantine for 14 days," added Mas.
Meanwhile, Air Seychelles said on Wednesday that it will implement further changes on its route network.
Effective as of March 23 until April 19, Air Seychelles will reduce its flights to Mauritius, Johannesburg and Mumbai in addition to suspending its services to Tel Aviv until April 22, said the airline.
Charles Johnson, the chief commercial officer of the airline said Air Seychelles will "continue to evaluate our flight schedule on a daily basis, while also focusing our energy on handling the needs of repatriating Seychellois citizens overseas and ensuring cargo demand is met."
Air Seychelles has extended its waiver policy until 30 April to provide travellers with more choice and flexibility when changing their tickets.
Seychelles has six confirmed cases of COVID-19 which includes four foreigners and two Seychellois.