SNA interview: An experienced Seychellois assumes the top role at Air Seychelles
Air Seychelles, the national carrier of the island nation in the western Indian Ocean, has a Seychellois at the helm for the first time in 10 years.
Sandy Benoiton, a certified pilot, took up the role of acting chief executive of the airline on July 1, succeeding Remco Althuis, who had led Air Seychelles since 2018.
SNA met with the 41-year-old father of two, who has been working with the company since 2000, first in accounting, and eventually as pilot and captain.
The future of Air Seychelles is on everyone’s minds in the island nation, but the answer isn’t yet clear. We asked, but whatever the new chief executive’s plans are, he wasn’t yet ready to share them in detail. But he does predict sunny skies ahead.
SNA: Congratulations on your new post. To begin with, tell us about your time with Air Seychelles before being appointed acting CEO?
SB: It is an interesting story, in fact. When I was at the polytechnic, I always wanted to study to become a pilot, but at that time Air Seychelles was not hiring new pilots for a period of 10 years. Even if I had already done the subjects, I needed to study to begin my pilot training. I ended up going back to school to study business and accounting.
In fact, I started in accounting at Air Seychelles. It’s funny because at that time I did not like it, but now it has proven to be a good decision as it has allowed me to become the acting CEO.
SNA: Will your experience be useful for your new post as acting CEO?
SB: My previous position as the chief operations officer had me working on the day-to-day operations of Air Seychelles and knowing most of the staff here and their abilities, I am confident that I can do this job and I am ready for the challenge.
SNA: What are your feelings at being the first Seychellois in over 10 years to take the reins of Air Seychelles?
SB: Obviously as a Seychellois I am very proud. It happened a bit fast and left me surprised, but I am familiar with the airline and feel capable of handling the job. Also, knowing the people I am working with has made me even more comfortable as I know I have capable staff that will be able to get things done together.
SNA: As the new acting CEO of Air Seychelles, what are your plans for the airline?
SB: At the moment, there is a lot of sensitive issues we are dealing with and when I talk to the staff I can sense their anxiety, but I still talk to them and I know that if we remain resilient and do our best to deal with the issues before us, we will have a bright future.
SNA: Was being CEO something you have been working towards?
SB: (laughs). It’s funny because when I got the job, one of my friends called me and reminded me of the time when we first started working as pilots with Air Seychelles in 2004. We were in a meeting with the then-CEO David Savy, who asked us where we see ourselves with Air Seychelles in the future.
I apparently said I wanted to become the CEO. I had completely forgotten about it to be honest and I really do not know why I even said that. But I have never after that imagined I would become the CEO.
SNA: What have been the responses of your friends, family and work colleagues?
SB: I have had very good responses from everyone, including friends, staff, family and members of the public. Although, there are mixed feelings among the staff as the company is going through some challenges, I have received a lot of support from everyone, since I know the company and can understand them. I think they also feel more comfortable with someone who speaks Creole as CEO.
SNA: As someone who has risen through the ranks at Air Seychelles, what advice can you give to others who hope to one day match your achievements?
SB: Well, I see a lot of potential in Seychellois especially at this airline where there is a lot of opportunities and training are also available. If we can get through this pandemic, then I know we can build a sustainable future for Air Seychelles as I strongly believe in the abilities of our staff.
SNA: What is your ultimate vision for Air Seychelles?
SB: That’s very simple. I want to see Air Seychelles become sustainable despite the challenges so that we will not have to depend on anyone to operate. In the immediate future, I am very optimistic that Air Seychelles will make it through and will progress.