The arrival of a second Airbus A320neo aircraft for Air Seychelles in February or March next year will greatly improve connectivity within the Indian Ocean region, the airline’s chief executive said.
Remco Althuis was speaking in Mauritius at the inaugural flight ceremony of Air Seychelles’ first Airbus A320neo aircraft on Thursday.
“An additional Airbus A320neo in spring next year will bring our fleet to seven aircraft which will enable us to connect the islands in the Seychelles’ archipelago as well as connect the island nations of the Indian Ocean,” said Althuis.
The airline’s first Airbus A320neo, named ‘Veuve,’ was welcomed on its inaugural flight to the neighboring island of Mauritius by a ceremonial water cannon salute upon landing at the Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam International Airport.
A celebratory cocktail at the Airports of Mauritius (AML) Receptorium was held with high government officials, key partners, and local travel trade and representatives of the media from both Mauritius and Seychelles.
The plane which arrived in Seychelles, a group of 115 islands in the western Indian Ocean, last week is the first for the region and for Africa.
Althuis said Air Seychelles is focusing on the regional network due to the global aviation market forces which are very competitive and operated by bigger carriers like British Airways, Qatar Airways, Air France and Emirates.
Air Seychelles presently has daily flights to Johannesburg, six weekly flights to Mumbai, seasonal flights to Madagascar and five flights a week to Mauritius.
The chief executive of Air Seychelles said with its 168-seat capacity, the new aircraft will also greatly increase the number of passengers.
“The A320neo has 24 percent more seats than the current A320ceo which means it will enable us to bring a lot more passengers to travel between our two island nations and more profit.”
However, he said the real impact of the new arrival will not be apparent immediately on all daily flights, but rather gradually.
“We have to wait until the second aircraft next spring before we can operate all of our routes with this aircraft all the time,” said Althuis.
He further added that the benefit will not be restricted to the region only.
On his side, the tourism minister of Mauritius, Anil Kumarsingh Gayan, said air connectivity is crucial for the development of the two islands and this should be the main focus of all regional governments.
“There is a demand by people in the region to have more aircraft operating between the islands. I know that four governments in the Indian Ocean have been working to have an Indian Ocean pass that will enable people to travel from one island to another,” said Gayan.
He added that “I don’t know why this is taking so long but I do hope this will happen soon and thus increase the presence of other carriers in the region and enable people to travel between the islands.”
Air Mauritius resumed its twice-weekly flight to Seychelles in July this year.