Air Seychelles, the national flag carrier of the archipelagic nation, has announced that it has become the first airline flying from and to the Indian Ocean to be allowed to overfly Saudi Arabia while operating its service to Israel. It was only last month that Saudi Arabia announced that it was opening its airspace to flights to and from Israel; previously, such flights had only been permitted in rare cases. The new Saudi policy is a reflection of the dramatic improvement in Arab-Israeli relations in recent years.
“The granting of this airspace is very significant for the airline,” highlighted Air Seychelles acting CEO Sandy Benoiton. “The fact that the flight can now fly in a more direct manner and a higher altitude also means a reduction in fuel burn between 500 kg [and] 1 000 kg per flight. In addition to this important environmental benefit, it means the aircraft can now carry an additional 20 passengers per flight and eliminates the payload restriction previously employed.”
The first flight using the new, more direct, route between Israel and the Seychelles was flown on Wednesday (August 3). Air Seychelles flight HM21 departed Tel Aviv Ben Gurion International Airport and arrived at Seychelles International Airport.
“It was a joy to operate [Wednesday’s] flight which overflew Jordan and Saudi Arabian airspace en route to Seychelles,” enthused flight HM21 pilot Captain Ronny Morel. “The Saudi air traffic controllers were extremely helpful and allowed us to navigate with optimal conditions for passenger comfort.”
The airline operates three direct flights each week between the Seychelles and Israel. It also operates one indirect flight a week between the two countries, which stops in Male in the Maldives.
The other international routes that the airline operates are to and from Johannesburg in South Africa, the Maldives, Mauritius, and Mumbai in India. Domestically, it operates up to 30 roundtrip flights a day. It undertakes these services with a fleet of two 168-seat Airbus A320-200neo single-aisle jet airliners and five 19-seat Viking DHC-6 Twin Otter series 400 twin-turboprop aircraft.