AIR SEYCHELLES DROPS CHENNAI STOP
Not long after introducing Chennai as an enroute stop of the Air Seychelles flight to Singapore did news emerge yesterday that the airline was going to drop the Indian city again.
It was not clear though it the failure to obtain full traffic rights as a code shared flight with their Indian partner airline had anything to do with this decision, likely as it is though as the profitability of this routing clearly had depended on eventually being able to uplift traffic between Chennai and Singapore and vice versa, albeit under code share.
Chennai was originally thought to also become Air Seychelles ‘entry hub’ into the Indian subcontinent’s key cities, with their partner to operate the onward connections under code shares too, but this seems to have evaporated into thin air. The Singapore flight will continue to leave every Monday from Mahe and return on Wednesday, leaving the aircraft on the ground while the crew takes minimum rest time to avoid having an entire flight crew stay for a week in Singapore at airline expense.
The airline has according to information provided not ruled out a return to India with a dedicated flight at a later stage, but aviation observers agree that the ‘double daily’ service by Emirates, with a wide range of connections to key Indian cities linking travelers to the Seychelles without much delay, will make this dream not come true any time soon. In fact, contacts with Seychellois aviation sources make it very clear, that the Emirates ‘double daily’, while otherwise hugely beneficial to the tourism industry across the archipelago, will compel Air Seychelles to rethink their own strategy as to destinations and flight frequencies. One source in fact went as far as saying on strict condition of anonymity: ‘After the announcement by Emirates that they would fly twice a day from Dubai to Seychelles, something our government and civil aviation authority sanctioned, Air Seychelles position has become a lot more precarious. We hear that government may consider selling a major share package in Air Seychelles to a strategic investor. Seychelles has grown strong ties with the UAE and other Gulf states, and I personally would not rule out that one of their mega carriers could be chosen to acquire shares in HM [airline code for Air Seychelles]. Qatar Airways are flying here, Emirates is moving towards double daily soon, one of them could become a shareholder and then we have to face up to the fact that we are turned into an appendix of theirs. I point to the failed venture between Sri Lankan and Emirates, so we should look at the reasons for that and what lessons to learn. If one of the big Gulf airlines takes shares in Air Seychelles, it will require a completely new strategy for the future. We could operate still to the other Indian Ocean islands, continue to South Africa, maybe to East Africa, and otherwise could face to code share with our shareholder and maybe could operate ‘alternate traffic days’ services to their main hub airport. But in the face of these developments, Air Seychelles on its own will have a very big challenge to make a stand against the giants which now fly more often in and out of Mahe than even Air Seychelles does.’
Wise words and a measure of the challenge ahead for the interim management team at HM, where brainstorming for a viable survival strategy will now be in full swing.
Watch this space.