The historic first flight, operating as HM019, arrived at Seychelles International Airport at 1335 hours from the Etihad Airways hub Abu Dhabi.
After the part purchase of Air Seychelles by Etihad the UAE airline has taken over all pilot recruitment and training. The leasing of the A330 replaces the Boeing 767 aircraft and adds to the Etihad sourced fleet.
Seychelles Vice President Danny Faure and Minister Joel Morgan, Seychelles’ Minister for Home Affairs and Transport, were present to witness a ribbon-cutting ceremony by Seychelles President James Michel, celebrating the arrival of the much-awaited aircraft.
The aircraft is named in honour of Aldabra island, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of Seychelles’ most remote and pristine islands. Aldabra, the world’s largest raised coral atoll, is surrounded by a pristine marine environment, uninhabited, and known for its distinctive fauna including the Aldabra Giant Tortoise.
Flying under the supervision of an Etihad Airways Captain and Training Pilot was Air Seychelles Captain Paul Belle, who has completed classroom and flight simulator training for the A330 aircraft at Etihad Airways Training Academy in Abu Dhabi.
Air Seychelles cabin crew, back in Air Seychelles uniform for the first time after completing A330 safety and service training in Abu Dhabi, filled the cabin with the airline’s signature Creole warmth.
Highlights of Air Seychelles’ A330 include enhanced in-flight entertainment with personal, on-demand systems at every seat, true lie-flat seats in Business class and refreshed menu design, as well as dine-on-demand personalized tray service in Business class.
Cramer Ball, Air Seychelles’ Chief Executive Officer, who traveled on board the inaugural flight, said: “Today marks a historic moment, a turning point towards a brighter future. The A330 aircraft is not only younger and more fuel-efficient, but it also boasts excellent new product and services never before seen at Air Seychelles.”
“To see our pilots and cabin crew again working proudly in uniform also shows how far Air Seychelles has come in a relatively short time. With our colorful aircraft livery and world-class service, we will bring the Creole spirit to every destination we fly to.”
Minister Morgan, who is also the Chairman of Air Seychelles, welcomed the aircraft on arrival, together with President Michel and Vice President Faure. Also present was a delegation of Ministers, government officials, VIPs, travel industry representatives, and media.
Minister Morgan said: “To see the A330, emblazoned with Air Seychelles’ unique livery, touch down at Seychelles International Airport was a moment of patriotic pride for all Seychellois. Only three months ago, we announced that we would refresh the fleet by retiring our Boeing 767 and bringing in two Airbus A330s. We made a promise and it has been kept. I am thrilled to now welcome our first Airbus, Aldabra, to the Air Seychelles fleet and we look forward to watching it fly the Creole spirit for many years to come.”
Minister Morgan has praised Air Seychelles staff, past and present, who facilitated the change process and conceded that it was arduous and stressful.
President Michel was hailed for his foresight, courage, and vision in repositioning the national airline ahead of the great turmoil Indian Ocean airlines find themselves faced with. By giving Air Seychelles a head start and finding it a strong and excellent strategic partner, being Etihad Airways, the worst is behind it. The company has, in record time, modernized its fleet and right-sized its operation.
Air Seychelles will take delivery of a second Airbus A330-200 aircraft in January 2013, at which time flights to China will commence.