The first British Airways (BA) flight in 14 years landed at the Seychelles International airport on Sunday March 25, 2018.
The Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner touched down at around 6.10am with 214 passengers onboard.
The Seychelles’ Minister for Tourism, Civil Aviation, Ports & Marine, Maurice Loustau-Lalanne, the British High Commissioner to Seychelles, Caron Röhsler, Principal Secretary for Tourism, Anne Lafortune, Principal Secretary for Civil Aviation, Ports & Marine, Garry Albert, Chief Executive of the Seychelles Tourism Board, Sherin Francis, & Chief Executive of the Seychelles Civil Aviation Authority Gilbert Faure, were among guests present at the airport.
Aside of the over 200 passengers, the inaugural flight was also carrying the airline’s Vice President for Sales, Richard Tams, as well as journalists from a number of reputed British newspapers: The Times LUXX, Sunday Times Travel Magazine, Town and Country Magazine, The Sun, The Daily Mirror and The Daily Express.
Minister Loustau-Lalanne described the return of British airways to Seychelles as an exciting day, as many people had dreamed of the return of the red-tailed speed bird to our shores.
“The return of BA after 14 long years of absence is a very significant development. It confirms your trust and confidence in our tourism industry. It is the best news for the Seychelles tourism industry for both its short term and long term viability,” the minister said.
The history of British Airways in Seychelles dates back to 1971 when the first BOAC flight landed with 110 passengers onboard. Back then, the airline had to stop in Nairobi before coming to Seychelles. BA, which stopped flying to the island nation in June 2004 is now back with direct non-stop flights.
The airline belonging to the International Airlines Group (IAG), will offer twice-weekly flights to Seychelles departing London Heathrow’s Terminal 5. Minister Loustau-Lalanne noted that the non-stop services from Heathrow Terminal 5 will also provide a boost to other emerging markets namely Canada and the USA.
For his part, BA’s Vice President for Sales, Richard Tams, used his address to reveal that instead of previously announced seasonal flights, the airline will now be offering a year-round service to Seychelles. He stated BA’s confidence that the airline will enjoy a long and prosperous relationship with Seychelles as it starts on the exciting journey of bringing holiday makers to this picture-perfect holiday destination.
“We have already seen that tourism to the Seychelles grew by 15 percent last year, so we are sure that this new direct route between the Seychelles and UK will prove to be a great success,” said Mr Tams.
As she welcomed British Airways, the British High Commissioner, Caron Rohsler, said that being conscious of the environmental impact tourists can have on island destinations, the UK government will be adding new advice about sustainable tourism on its webpages.
“This will include tips on how visitors can help preserve the ocean and island habitats so that future generations can enjoy them,” she said.
In 2017, the UK & Northern Ireland sent 21,991 visitors to Seychelles. Currently the 6th leading market, the UK & Ireland has sent 3,608 to the island nation so far in 2018. Minister Loustau-Lalanne noted that BA’s returns makes a new target of 25,000 visitors achievable.
The sentiment is shared by the Chief Executive of the Seychelles Tourism Board, Sherin Francis, who has also welcomed news that BA will be offering year-round services to Seychelles.
It is important to note that the STB office in the UK is already working with British Airways to develop a marketing strategy as part of a two-year agreement to market and promote Seychelles as a destination and support British Airways’ non-stop, twice-weekly flights to the destination. The agreement was signed shortly after BA announced its return to Seychelles.
“The UK market is a year round market, and we must also not forget that we have a Seychellois diaspora living in the UK who travel year round especially during the winter period and Christmas holidays. Locally, the Seychellois population is also well-travelled and with the historic link with the UK there would be a lot of outbound travel from Seychelles. So it’s good news that this will be a year round service and I am confident that the flights will be a success,” said Mrs Francis.
Aside of the tourism authorities and tourism trade another group of people present at the airport to witness BA’s return to Seychelles was a group of six former Seychellois staff who worked for several years for British Airways ,before the flights stopped in 2004.
It was a historic and emotional moment for Doris Johnston, Rosemarie Hoareau, Celine Rahemtulla, Georges Michel, Noellie Alexander and Vicky Lanza.
Noellie Alexander was the first person to join the British Airways in 1971, she remained a staff for 10 years. She worked at the town office but part of her duties was to be present at the airport on her the days the flight would arrive in Seychelles. She recalls that at that time; being a British Airways staff was a privilege.
Vicky Lanza joined the then British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC) six months after its initial arrival, early in 1972, clocking 35 years with the company. Starting off as a secretary, she went up the ladder thanks to training opportunities and her personal efforts. Mrs Lanza became the manager for Seychelles in 1988 and 10 years later; she was relocated to the British Airways offices in Mauritius, where she served as the commercial Indian Ocean Manager, responsible for Mauritius, Seychelles, Reunion and Madagascar.
“When British Airways initially arrived, they invested in Seychelles. We started with 2 staff and we grew to have 22 staff, all locals. British Airways never ceased to give us training, and the standard of service that was achieved was due to that training. We had such high standards, and this was very important,” she said.
British Airways’ new twice-weekly flights to Seychelles will depart London Heathrow’s Terminal 5 on Wednesdays and Saturdays, returning on Thursdays and Sundays.
Aside of being fuel efficient, the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner being used on the Seychelles route offers a 4-class cabin product to customers: First, Club World, World Traveler Plus and World Traveler.