Seychelles authorities and Air France discuss coordinated approach

The Seychelles authorities have started discussions with Air France following the French carrier’s announcement that it will be operating thrice-weekly flights to Seychelles as from next year.

Air France will start flying to the Indian Ocean archipelago on May 5, 2018, using its new sister airline ‘Joon.’

The first meeting headed by Minister for Tourism, Civil Aviation, Ports and Marine, Ambassador Maurice Loustau-Lalanne, was held on Monday at the ministry’s headquarters, at Botanical House, Mont Fleuri.

The Principal Secretary for Civil Aviation, Ports and Marine, Garry Albert, Chief Executive of the Seychelles Tourism Board, Sherin Francis, Chief Executive of the Seychelles Civil Aviation Authority, Gilbert Faure and the Chief Executive of Air Seychelles, Roy Kinnear, were also present.

Air France was represented by its Director for the Indian Ocean region, Christian Oberlé, and the Air France Director representing the Comoros, Seychelles and Madagascar, Jean Luc Lagarrigue. The French Ambassador to Seychelles Lionel Majesté-Larrouy also attended the meeting.

Minister Loustau-Lalanne said it is important to discuss the technical aspects of the upcoming Air France flights to Seychelles.

“I have brought together the civil aviation authority, STB as well as Air Seychelles, as Air Seychelles also flies to Paris, to see how we can collaborate to ensure that we have a coordinated approach to better develop the French market, to bring more French tourists and ensure that France remains one of the main tourism markets for Seychelles,” Minister Loustau-Lalanne added.

Air France is making a comeback to the island destination after over 20 years, having stopped direct flights to Seychelles back in 1996.

The new flights which will be operated by its new subsidiary airline ‘Joon’ will be flying from Paris on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays at 10am arriving in Seychelles at 10.30pm. The returning flights will be leaving Seychelles at midnight the following day, to arrive in Paris at 8 am, a perfect timing for onward connection to other destinations within the Air France-KLM network. Joon will initially be operating the flights using its Airbus A340-600, to be replaced by an A350-900 by 2019.

Air France’s Director for the Indian Ocean region, Christian Oberlé said that the global airline dynamics has evolved, with the travel industry in Europe having recorded remarkable growth, which he said is allowing Air France-KLM group to redevelop its products.

He mentioned the airline’s partnerships with Delta Airlines and China Eastern that has allowed Air France to strengthen its presence on the international arena and resume growth, particularly with the introduction of its subsidiary airline ‘Joon,’ which Mr Oberlé said is allowing the company to grow, with lower costs, adding that this will allow Air France to guarantee a regular service to Seychelles.

“Yes we are coming back to Seychelles with innovative products …we hope to further develop in particular the millennials segment,” said Mr Oberlé, adding that Air France is counting on same support which the Seychelles Tourism Board offers to other airlines, to help Air France promote the new flights and develop new markets in Europe.

Joon’s direct thrice-weekly flights will be adding to Air Seychelles’ direct thrice-weekly flights on the same route. Commenting on the competition, Mr Oberlé said he is convinced there is space to develop the air traffic between France and Seychelles, adding that the French carrier intends to ensure that the route is successful.

For his part, Air Seychelles’ Chief Executive Roy Kinnear said the airline will take time to analyse the market, work with the travel trade and work out a way forward.

“I think both of us together have to revise our strategy moving forward. Air France has launched three flights per week, two of those days of the week are the same days of operations as Air Seychelles, so I think we need to be clear about what is right for Seychelles as a country and what is right for Air Seychelles,” Mr Kinnear added.

Minister Loustau-Lalanne noted that Seychelles has an open sky policy, adding that the number of airlines flying to Seychelles shows that the policy is working well.

“When you have an open sky policy it comes with certain difficulties especially when you have a national airline, so Air Seychelles faces a lot of competition not only with Air France but with other airlines. Our bilateral air service agreement with France stipulates that airlines from both sides can operate flights [between their territories] … therefore it’s important for the two airlines to meet and discuss the commercial aspects to ensure that we develop the French market in the correct manner … we need to share information to see how we can make this sustainable for both airlines,” the minister added.

Minister Loustau-Lalanne noted that there is potential to develop other tourism markets aside of the French market, considering the Paris Charles Gaulle airport is an important hub in Europe.