Now only 10 hours away: first Air Seychelles nonstop flight touches down in Paris
Air Seychelles Airbus A330-200 pictured at the Paris Charles de Gaulle airport. (Air Seychelles - Michel Blossier)
(Seychelles News Agency) - The Seychelles national airline, Air Seychelles, resumed non-stop flights to the French capital of Paris, Wednesday July 1.
The company’s modern Airbus A330-200 was greeted by the traditional water cannon salute as it landed at the Charles de Gaulle airport at 6.00am [Paris time] on Thursday morning.
In 2011, Air Seychelles halted direct flights to Europe including France where it was operating twice weekly flights between Seychelles and Paris, after encountering major losses on these routes.
The UAE's Etihad Airways invested $45 million in Air Seychelles – which was previously wholly-owned by the Seychelles government since its establishment in 1978 – when it bought a 40 percent equity stake in the airline in 2012 with the aim of turning the company around after several years of significant losses.
Tourism being the main pillar of the Seychelles economy, an Indian Ocean archipelago well-known for its powder-white beaches, surrounded by crystal-clear turquoise oceans and with strong demand from the French tourism market, the airline decided to re-launch flights to Paris at the beginning of July last year after a two and a half year absence.
However, the route, which transited through Abu Dhabi was cited as an inconvenience for people travelling between Paris and the Seychelles, with visitors from France, traditionally the Seychelles’ top tourism source falling in 2014.
French tour operators highlighted the issue as one of their main challenges of marketing Seychelles as a tourist destination to their clients during a meeting with Seychelles tourism authorities in France last year.
France is now back in the number one spot after being taken over by Germany in 2014.
According to the latest tourism figures from the Seychelles National Bureau of Statistics, 18,566 French tourists have visited the Seychelles since the beginning of the year, compared with 16,871 from the same period in 2014 – an overall increase of 10 percent.
The Air Seychelles flight is welcomed by a traditional water-cannon salute at Charles de Gaulle Airport. (Air Seychelles - Michel Blossier) Photo License: All Rights Reserved
Air Seychelles is hoping that the resumption of thrice-weekly flights to Paris will improve tourism numbers from the French market as well as attract visitors from other neighbouring countries like Belgium, Switzerland and Italy.
"There is a strong demand for non-stop flights between Seychelles and Paris and we are very impressed with the number of passengers. The flight back [to Seychelles] tonight [Thursday evening] is full. That is what the market wants and with the support of the French embassy and the [Seychelles] government, I think it will be a success," said Manoj Papa, the outgoing Chief Executive of Air Seychelles at a press conference in Paris.
The French Ambassador to Seychelles Lionel Majesté-Larrouy, who was among the guests on this first flight to Paris, is convinced that the new route should enable French tourists who go to Reunion, a French overseas department in the Indian Ocean, to benefit from another option lying just two hours away by plane.
"I am extremely confident in the future of this airline and I will personally work hard to fill the plane not only in one direction, meaning from Paris to Mahé, but also to ensure that all Air Seychelles flights, Mahe-Paris, are filled with our friends from Seychelles and the Indian Ocean," Majesté-Larrouy told SNA.
"We import a lot of fish from Seychelles… again I think the Air Seychelles freight will be quite useful for this commercial flight."
The uninterrupted flights between Seychelles and France have also been welcomed by tourists.
"When we came to the Seychelles, we were told that the flight back would be non-stop, we found this to be very good because we were in Paris in just 10 hours,” Christine Licausi told SNA.
(From second left) Outgoing Air Seychelles CEO Manoj Papa, Bernadette Willemin, STB's Director for Europe, and Lionel Majeste-Larrouy, the French Ambassador to Seychelles participate in a ribbon-cutting ceremony to commemorate the first non-stop flight between Seychelles and Paris. (Air Seychelles - Michel Blossier) Photo License: All Rights Reserved
"This is what our customers wanted and Air Seychelles is proud to have delivered ... it's a great time for Air Seychelles and Seychelles,” said Papa.
"The mandate of Air Seychelles is to support the Seychelles tourism market, we operate direct flights ... and we have opened up the European market to Seychelles, from France, thanks to our partners ... It's good for our economy, for the tourism industry and it's good for business," added Papa.
"Air Seychelles operates according to what is directed by the board of directors and the main objective of a business is to grow and Etihad gives us the support needed to grow in an equitable manner.”
|The Air Seychelles crew in Paris. (Air Seychelles - Michel Blossier) Photo License: All Rights Reserved|
In April this year, Air Seychelles signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Air France, aimed at ushering in codeshare opportunities between Air France and Air Seychelles on each other’s respective air networks, allow frequent flyers of both airlines to earn reciprocal points, as well as technical and cargo cooperation.
"We are working to conclude the code-share agreement with Air France not only for points in France but outside of the country and in Europe. Partnerships are important for Air Seychelles and this is why the company has evolved," concluded Papa.
The thrice weekly flights leave Mahé to Paris on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays with return flights on Mondays Thursday and Saturdays.