MINISTER FOR TRANSPORT RESPONDS TO TRANSAERO SAGA
Predictably has the Hon. Joel Morgan, in one of his current capacities also Minister for Transport – besides holding the portfolios of Home Affairs, Environment and Energy – responded to public statements made by the Seychelles Hospitality and Tourism Association earlier in the week.
The minister pointed out in his statement that the initial request by TransAero for traffic rights had proposed to operate flights between Moscow, via Seychelles to Mauritius, applying for fifth freedom rights to uplift traffic for the sectors from Mahe to Port Louis.
Consequently TransAero was informed that the existing BASA, short for Bilateral Air Services Agreement, currently in place between the Seychelles and the Russian Federation, only foresaw third and fourth freedom access for their respective national or designated carriers and as such the request in the form submitted could not be approved.
However, the minister also pointed out that under the guidance of government the Seychelles Civil Aviation Authority proposed to TransAero to commence discussions with national carrier Air Seychelles to find common ground how to cooperate, a suggestion TransAero reportedly declined to entertain.
TransAero was then offered a second alternative, to operated flights from Moscow to Seychelles and then on to Mauritius WITHOUT traffic rights on that sector, but this too was reportedly rejected by TransAero at the time as was the proposal to fly solely between Moscow and Mahe.
In an exclusive interview earlier this year, published in eTN’s Executive Talk, Minister Morgan discussed with this correspondent the difficult question of fifth freedom rights and explained at the time that Air Seychelles, as a national airline and a strategic asset of the government of Seychelles, needed to be considered every time such requests were made to government, as the long term future of Air Seychelles was in the national interest, without however impeding air access to the archipelago by other airlines wishing to fly to Mahe. At the time the minister cited the forthcoming 25 frequencies operated by three Gulf based airlines, Emirates – due to fly double daily before the end of the year – Qatar Airways with daily flights and Ethihad, due to commence an initial 4 flights a week from November 2011. Air Seychelles does not fly to any of these airline’s hubs and as such government had granted the applications to operate more flights, doubling them compared to a year ago. The minister at the time also made it clear that even such airlines could not take it for granted to receive fifth freedom rights when operating into the Seychelles, as each and every case would need to be considered with all merits taken into account, but also the potential impact on routes already flown by Air Seychelles or being potentially new routes in particular to the African continent.
It was also learned from other sources that the demand that the transport ministry be brought under the direct control of President Michel, who already holds the tourism portfolio, was most unlikely to be considered as ‘the partly political nature of that particular demand’ – that is how a source from Victoria put it to this correspondent – was just too apparent.
Watch this space for the latest news from the Indian Ocean and East Africa’s aviation scene where things are happening and breaking news swiftly reported.