Air Seychelles to fly non-stop to Germany, invest in second A330 in 2017
Air Seychelles will start offering twice-weekly flights to Düsseldorf, Germany by the end of March next year. (Air Seychelles)
(Seychelles News Agency) - The Seychelles national airline on Friday announced plans to offer direct, non-stop flights to a second European destination in 2017.
Air Seychelles will start offering twice-weekly flights to Düsseldorf, Germany by the end of March next year.
Airline Chief Executive Roy Kinnear told reporters that it is “a wise move to have a second direct service to a European point,” as it will help expand Air Seychelles’ reach within the continent.
The new route is part of the national airline’s expansion plans in 2017 -- revealed during a news conference on Friday -- which is targeting Europe and the Indian Ocean region.
Europe remains the island nation's primary market for tourism, which is the mainstay of the island nation’s economy. France and Germany are the top markets, having brought 36,000 and 32,500 tourists to Seychelles so far in 2016, representing a 16 and 10 percent increase in visitors from the two European nations compared to last year.
In addition to its new direct flights to Düsseldorf, Air Seychelles will also be increasing its frequency from three to four weekly flights to Paris in March.
In 2011, Air Seychelles halted direct flights to Europe including France after encountering major losses on the routes. The airline decided to re-launch flights to Paris via Abu Dhabi at the beginning of July 2014, followed by direct flights a year later.
The additional flight that will be launched in March follows an announcement by the Seychelles Civil Aviation Authority earlier this week that the French authorities have granted approval for the national carrier to operate daily flights to Paris following negotiations between the governments of the two countries.
Kinnear told SNA that in spite of the agreement’s allowance for daily flights, “four is the number I am commercially comfortable operating right now.”
“It’s good to have the bilateral to allow us to go beyond that in the future, but I think at this point in time diversification at a steady growth of both [the Paris and Düsseldorf flights] is the right thing to do,” he added.
With regards to its regional expansion Kinnear announced the introduction of twice-weekly flights to Durban, South Africa in March next year, complementing its existing five-weekly service to Johannesburg.
South Africa is currently the Seychelles' main tourism market in Africa and Kinnear described Durban as an important regional part of the network, serving Seychelles for business, leisure, trade and commerce as well as serving the purpose for onward connectivity to India.
Kinnear said Durban is not only about tourism, adding that “I see it as great opportunity to build trade and commerce further with South Africa.”
To aid its expansion plans, Air Seychelles will also be adding a second Airbus A330 aircraft -- with 18 business and 236 economy seats -- to its fleet in 2017. This will add to its existing fleet of two Airbus A320 and an A330. The additional aircraft, Kinnear said, will help increase capacity on its regional routes.
On top of increasing the seat capacity on Air Seychelles’ five weekly flights to Johannesburg, Mauritius and Mumbai by 23 percent, the airline is confident of using the new A330 aircraft to increase the cargo market between India and Seychelles.
The national airline has announced the recruitment of an additional seven Seychellois pilots and the recruiting and training of some 50 cabin crew members as it expands its fleet and international network.
The Air Seychelles’ chief executive expressed confidence that the launching of new and additional flights, as well as investment in a new aircraft, will be able to withstand competition from new airline companies joining the Seychelles travel trade market.
The Minister for Tourism, Civil Aviation, Port and Marine Alain St.Ange described the airline’s role as insurance for the island nation's tourism industry.
“You are there, you are the backup that we need. We’ve been welcoming two extra companies to Seychelles, This is good because we need airlines to our main source markets but we also need the insurance, to know that if there was ever a downward trend we are able to hold ourselves, our way forward.”
Air Seychelles was established in 1978 and began long-haul service in 1983. The airline offers international flights to Abu Dhabi, Antananarivo, Beijing, Johannesburg, Mauritius, Mumbai and Paris on top of offering daily domestic flights to Praslin and charter services on several islands in the archipelago. The airline maintains a strategic partnership with Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Airway, which bought a 40 percent stake in the company in 2012, investing $45 million in the airline with the aim of turning the company around after several prior years of losses.