Breaking Travel News interview: Sandy Benoiton, chief executive, Air Seychelles
Air Seychelles has been honoured with the titles of Indian Ocean’s Leading Airline, Indian Ocean’s Leading Airline – Business Class, Indian Ocean’s Leading Airline Lounge and Indian Ocean’s Leading Cabin Crew at the World Travel Awards.
Here Breaking Travel News speaks to Sandy Benoiton, chief executive of the flag-carrier, to find out how it feels to have been recognised by voters from around the globe.
Breaking Travel News: Having claimed a number of top titles at the World Travel Awards, how does it feel to have won?
Sandy Benoiton: We are very proud at Air Seychelles to have received the top accolades at the World Travel Awards of which I dedicate our winnings to our guests, partners and most of all our staff members.
It is also a historical milestone to be awarded, for the first time ever, the Indian Ocean’s Leading Airline Lounge 2021, given the extensive refurbishment and upgrades that we have concluded to provide a fresh look and feel to the lounge.
Another remarkable achievement in showcasing the ability of the team in delivering excellent industry-leading service.
BTN: How will the trophies help you to promote Air Seychelles as we move into 2022?
SB: As borders start to reopen globally, the trophies will definitely help in building passengers’ confidence to travel with Air Seychelles.
Moving forward into 2022 the award will also provide the airline with increased visibility and opportunities across the Indian Ocean and beyond apart from reaffirming the airline’s commitment to its guests in delivering the highest levels of standards of service with an improved product proposition without compromising on safety.
BTN: What is it that caught the eye of voters; what do you think it is that separates Air Seychelles from its competitors in Africa and the Indian Ocean?
SB: Being flexible and agile during this unprecedented environment is what has really made Air Seychelles stand out among other operators in the region.
Amid global lockdown, the Air Seychelles team continued to keep the Seychelles colours flying.
At a fast pace, the team managed to transform the airlines’ business model to operate repatriation, cargo and charter flights on demand and the acquisition of two new A320neo fuel efficient aircraft in early 2020 and 2021 was the best decision for the airline.
From March 2020 up to September 2021, Air Seychelles has managed to operate to over 45 new airports of which 59 per cent of these flights were cargo operations held between April 1st-July 31st last year (during national lockdown) across the Indian Ocean to Reunion, Mauritius, Comoros, Mayotte and other countries delivering essential medical supplies.
In fact, Air Seychelles in 2020 was the first airline in the Indian Ocean to operate with cargo in the cabin of its aircraft and was even at one point during that time, the sole carrier flying in the Indian Ocean skies given the ongoing Covid-19 travel restrictions.
BTN: Where does the Seychelles stand with the reopening of the tourism sector in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic?
SB: Since its reopening in March 2021, last month, Seychelles received its 114,859th visitor, surpassing the 114,858 who visited the archipelago in 2020.
This great result follows the ease in travel restrictions which has also led Air Seychelles to restore its network to Mauritius, Johannesburg, Tel Aviv, Maldives and Dubai seasonally.
Looking at the demand in the market where the airline operates, we are seeing an increase in traffic during the peak festive months, for example during Hanukkah in Tel Aviv and during the holidays from Johannesburg to Maldives.
In fact, just in September alone, Air Seychelles operated a total of 15 returning flights between Tel Aviv and the Seychelles carrying a total of 1,362 passengers accounting for ten per cent the total tourism arrivals during that period to the Seychelles.
This positive sign shows that we are on the pathway to recovery even if it will be a gradual process.
BTN: How important will the flag-carrier be in the rebuilding of the hospitality sector in the destination?
SB: Air connectivity is crucial in rebuilding the Seychelles hospitality sector and as the national airline we remain committed in supporting the economic, trade and tourism development to the island.
As Seychelles is becoming an increasingly attractive destination, Air Seychelles will continue to work with its partners across the tourism sector to implement initiatives and tap into new opportunities to further boost visitors to the island.
Find out more about Air Seychelles on the official website.