Sri Lanka’s exporters to Seychelles were upbeat on possible direct air-links with Seychelles while Sri Lanka’s national carrier viewed it as ‘an opportunity’. “Seychelles is an opportunity. Within the next three months, SriLankan Airlines will be able to come to a clear understanding as to how we can set up direct commercial air-links with Seychelles,” said SriLankan Airlines Director/CEO Kapila Chandrasena.
Chandrasena was explaining the latest developments on direct air-links in the aftermath of his discussions with Seychelles’ Civil Aviation Authority Chairman Capt. David Savy on 22 August, after the Breakfast Meeting held by the Department of Commerce of Sri Lanka for the visiting Seychelles delegation at Hilton Hotel. During the Breakfast Meeting Seychelles President James Alix Michel announced, “Air and maritime cooperation between the two countries could begin immediately which will boost tourism, trade and investment at both ends, and also help grow such segments as medical tourism through direct and onward flights. I would like my Chairman of Seychelles Aviation Authority to start discussions today itself with SriLankan Airlines. We also look to SriLankan (Airlines) for onward flights potential from Seychelles to other parts of Africa such as South Africa which will open up lots of opportunities for SriLankan. SriLankan’s marketing aimed at Eurpore, such as Paris, can benefit Seychelles as a destination. We are prepared to give facilities to SriLankan Airlines for direct flights to Seychelles. I think together we can achieve a lot for our countries.”
Explaining the outcome of discussions Chandrasena said, “Today we had an exploratory meeting with Seychelles’ Civil Aviation Authority Chairman Capt. David Savy, to explore the possibility of having direct air-links with Seychelles, to cater to the request of President Michel. As an airline, we informed Seychelles that we would consider them as an opportunity for SriLankan -primarily as an intermediate point to Africa. What we agreed today (22) was to share some of the market and other relevant data to ascertain that position and within the next three months, we will be able to come to a clear understanding as to how we can get about this. There is an opportunity. But now we need to crystallise that from tourism and commercial perspective. What we are targeting is the growing travel market between China and Africa and a portion of it which is landing at Seychelles. We are looking at Africa and in that scope we can include Seychelles. As an airline we will talk to their Civil Aviation and see how we can establish a market need first. Also, geographically, it is an intermediate opportunity, since Seychelles is on our way to Africa therefore it is at the right place in our expansion to Africa as well. And we need to sort other complexities as well such as flying rights in African airports, and also need for certain agreements to be in place with other African countries.”
Many Sri Lankan exporters to Seychelles were upbeat on the possibility of direct air-links between the two countries. Eastern and Allied Agencies Ltd. Executive Director S. Gnanaskandan, a Lankan fruit and vegetable exporter to Seychelles said, “This is a major development for us. Currently, we have to route our shipments through the Dubai Hub before landing in Mahe, the capital of Seychelles. But direct air-links will cut cost and time greatly and I may even switch my sea-cargo to air-freight if direct air-links begin.”