Opening up the Seychelles skies for more flights from Italy - Aviation agreement renewed
Air Seychelles, the national airline of the Seychelles islands, has a codeshare agreement with Alitalia for its flights to Italy, which was signed in August 2014. (Air Seychelles)
(Seychelles News Agency) - Seychelles and Italy have renewed and modernized a 31-year-old air services agreement, which is expected to allow more air traffic between the European nation and the Indian Ocean island state.
In 2014, Italy was ranked as the third market for tourists with 19,876 Italians visiting the tropical islands, while Germany was in first position followed closely by France, in a year when 232,667 tourists from around the world came to visit.
According to a press statement from the Seychelles Civil Aviation Authority (SCAA), the agreement, which was signed on Thursday in Seychelles, is expected to improve ‘capacity requirement for flights between multiple points in Italy and Seychelles including charters, flexible provisions for operations including aircraft leasing, tariff liberalization and an adaptable route schedule with integrated traffic rights provisions.’
“It was our greatest wish to come here and achieve our goal to renew our main air service agreement, giving our airlines new opportunities and better connection, so as to improve on the number of Italian tourists vacationing in the Seychelles,” said Maria Cristina Francolini, the Director of International Relation Division of the Italian Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport in the statement.
The SCAA’s CEO Gilbert Faure also welcomed the modernized agreement adding that it will also 'maintain provisions previously agreed upon such as multi-designation of airlines which will permit several airlines in both countries to benefit from the set commercial aspect.'
“It will give Seychellois travellers more air access to different parts of Italy and provide Italian tourists, as well as other Europeans with another option when travelling to Seychelles,” said Faure.
SCAA CEO Gilbert Faure and Maria Cristina Francolini, Director of International Relation Division, from the Italian Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport, following the signing of the aviation agreement on Thursday at the Seychelles International airport at Pointe Larue, Mahe island. (SCAA) Photo license: CC-BY
The agreement forms part of the Seychelles government policy to liberalize air access and attract airlines from Europe to fly directly to Seychelles, as currently only Condor operates a weekly flight from Frankfurt, Germany, and all other airlines that leave a European airport go through hubs in Dubai and Abu Dhabi in the UAE to get to Seychelles.
Alitalia and Air Seychelles signed a codeshare agreement last August, for five weekly return non-stop flights between Rome and Abu Dhabi, and on ten connecting flights to Milan via Rome, and twelve connecting flights to Venice via Rome.
Both airlines are strategic partners of the UAE's national airline Etihad Airways. Etihad Airways bought a 40% stake in Air Seychelles in January 2012 and then bought a 49% stake in Alitalia in August 2014.
“The liberalization of the air services framework with Italy will go a long way to consolidate current air services operations through Alitalia’s virtual network to Seychelles with Air Seychelles as well as Etihad Airways via Abu Dhabi. It calls for enhanced capacity with the aim to alleviate some of the challenges that our tourism industry faces from time to time or concerns raised by some in the industry of travel to the Seychelles through major hubs, said Joel Morgan, the Seychelles Minister for Foreign Affairs and Transport in SCAA’s statement.
|Praslin island in the Seychelles, one of the islands often visted by Italian tourists (Gerard Larose, Seychelles Tourism Board) Photo license: CC-BY-NC|
Italian tour operators want direct flights
While Seychelles does not currently have direct flights from Italy, in the past both Alitalia and Air Seychelles had regular direct flights.
Alitalia used to fly to Seychelles between in January 1987, and stopped in January 1991.In June 1998, Air Seychelles and Alitalia, formed a joint venture and Air Seychelles launched its first flight to Milan on November 1st 1998 in agreement with Alitalia, adding to another weekly flight to Rome. In January 2012, Air Seychelles withdrew its flights to Rome, Milan, as well as Paris and London, following huge losses on the routes. In February 2012, private Italian airline Blue Panorama started flights from Rome to Seychelles, but suspended them in September of the same year, citing poor passenger numbers due to the weak Italian economy.
During a recent Seychelles Tourism Board mission to Italy, the Seychelles team consulted Italian tour operators on the challenges they faced in promoting the island destination.
According to the STB, their ‘greatest wish is for Seychelles to one day be able to establish back its direct flight with Italy.’
An STB statement on February 12 said; “ One tour operator in Rome said, "Italians miss their direct flight!" but still goes on in acknowledging that having Ethiopian Airlines back on the destination as well as the Etihad-Alitalia code share agreement, together with Emirates [flights] will help in providing more traveling choices to the Italian visitors. Additionally, one of their profound wishes is that Seychelles can start offering more authentic experiences for the Italians visiting Seychelles.
"Anybody can buy a souvenir or a piece of jewelry from Seychelles," says a tour operator, "but the memory of an authentic true Seychelles experience will last a lifetime!"