2 airlines reducing flights to Seychelles this month as travel demand drops after COVID spike
Two international airlines are reducing the number of flights to Seychelles in January, part of the reason the Seychelles Civil Aviation Authority (SCAA) is likely to continue to see losses in revenue in early 2021 following a loss of over $3 million last year, an Authority official said Monday.
Due to a drop in demand, Emirates, which currently operates five weekly flights to the island nation, is cancelling its Sunday route until February 7, while Kenya Airways is cancelling its scheduled twice-weekly flights till the end of January, the SCAA told SNA.
SCAA Corporate Communication Manager Lina Laurence said the main reason is because of a drop in demand as a result of COVID-19 pandemic worldwide. “Over the past week, there has been a stark increase in COVID cases from our source markets and new restrictions have been put in place in most of those countries. Henceforth, dampening traveler confidence and impacting on-demand”, explained Laurence.
She added that the “fluidity and unpredictability of the current situation makes it so that even though airlines have specified a timeframe for the suspension or readjustment of schedule, it is difficult to ascertain whether they would resume operations as indicated”.
Kenya Airways is cancelling its scheduled twice-weekly flights till the end of January. (Seychelles Tourism Board) Photo License: CC BY
SCAA said the re-adjustment will also have an impact on its revenue, although it is too early to calculate the monetary impact of the cancellations. SCAA ended 2020 with a loss of $3.2 million compared to a profit of $7 million in 2019.
Total arrivals at the end of 2020 were 135,689 visitors compared to a record of 463,046 in 2019. The total international passengers that landed in Seychelles – 115 islands in the western Indian Ocean – in 2020 was 281,812 compared to 920,215 in 2019. Laurence said the authority expects this pattern to continue in the first quarter of 2021, given the number of cancellations.
For 2021, SCAA had budgeted 15 flights a week — an average of two flights per day – with an average of between 100 and 200 passengers per day.
However, Laurence said this does not look attainable especially with the new restrictions imposed by some countries, and a new strain of COVID-19 which is also dissuading travelers.
However, she added that SCAA believes that traveler confidence will start to improve by March or April whereby by then the budget of 15 flights per week may be achievable.
Seychelles’ national COVID-19 immunisation programme was rolled out on Sunday with President Wavel Ramkalawan the first person to be vaccinated.
Following Monday’s announcement, Emirates Airlines with now operate four flights per week on Mondays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.
Qatar is still operating three weekly flights on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, but the airline has announced the cancellation of its flight on Tuesday, January 12, only. Ethiopian Airlines is maintaining two weekly flights on Wednesdays and Fridays.
The national carrier, Air Seychelles is still operating on its regional networks in January, with weekly flights to Tel Aviv, Israel and three flights to Johannesburg, South Africa, and its last flight to Maldives on January 16. British Airways has also cancelled all its January flights whilst Air Austral has cancelled all scheduled flights to the island nation.