AIR ASTRAL MAY STEP INTO AIR SEYCHELLES PARIS ROUTE
There is growing speculation that Air Astral, with a home base on the island of La Reunion, may in due course step into the vacant space left by the announcement of Air Seychelles, that they will progressively drop their European routes from early next year. Air Astral is now rumoured to plan the introduction of regular flights from France to La Reunion via the Seychelles international airport on Mahe, obtaining 5th freedom rights in the process which would allow them to uplift passengers between Mahe and La Reuion and vice versa.
The news comes as a relief to the archipelagos tourism industry which has watched the rapid dismantling of Air Seychelles with some incredulity and was left to wonder if other airlines would add extra capacities to their flights for instance via the Gulf hubs of Doha, Abu Dhabi and Dubai, so that the loss of seats caused by the withdrawal of Air Seychelles from intercontinental routes would not impact on the number of visitors to the islands.
In a related development has the move by Air Seychelles also revived speculation that a number of international airlines could re-apply for 5th freedom rights, using the Seychelles as an intermediate stop over point from where to pick up traffic to their final destinations on the African mainland. Usually well informed sources however were swift to discount this option, as in the words of one regular contributor: a restructured Air Seychelles, possibly flying regional services to the African mainland, would be the loser on such deals. Other airlines could just siphon away the traffic base of our own airline. It was the same on international routes. When more and more airlines got traffic rights to fly to Seychelles, it impacted a lot on our national airline. The rot started when they had to drop Frankfurt, because they could not compete with the fares Gulf airlines in particular offered via their home hubs to German holiday makers. True, we are now having record arrivals as a result of more airlines coming here, but in the process lost our own national airline. Air Seychelles was a national strategic asset and one should be under no illusion, if the going gets tough it is only ourselves we can one hundred percent rely on. So it is a big NO, other airlines must not get 5th freedom rights from Mahe to the African mainland or otherwise even the minimalized Air Seychelles cannot survive.
Watch this space for updates on Air Astral and any possible change in aviation policy, which could see airlines from other countries try and use the Seychelles as a stopover point en route to Africa with full traffic rights.