Air Seychelles (IATA: HM), flag carrier of the Republic of Seychelles, has taken delivery of the first Airbus A320neo to ever be operated by an African carrier. The aircraft, named 'Veuve' (a critically endangered bird), touched down at the airline's Seychelles International Airport (IATA: SEZ) hub on 2nd August 2019 to a water cannon salute and an all-round warm reception.
The delivery marked the end of an 18 year spell that had seen the airline with no new aircraft deliveries since the 2001 delivery of a Boeing 767-300ER, that is currently in service with Air Canada Rouge.
Moreover, the aircraft is equipped with CFM’s new generation LEAP-1A engines, another first on the African continent. According to the engine manufacturer, it offers A320 operators exceptional technical, economic and environmental performance, with a 15% reduction in fuel consumption and CO2 emissions versus current engines, up to 50% margin on NOx emissions versus CAEP/6 Standard, and in compliance with the most stringent noise standards.
The A320neo is on lease from CBD Aviation, a wholly owned Irish subsidiary of China Development Bank Financial Leasing Co., Limited (CDB Leasing).
Speaking at the delivery event, Air Seychelles CEO Remco Althuis noted that the new generation aircraft would offer guests a comfortable experience, with access to seyStream wireless inflight entertainment platform, coupled with the unique Creole warmth and hospitality of the airline's dedicated Cabin Crew.
Air Seychelles was established in 1978 and mainly operated interisland air services until October 1983, when it ventured into long-haul operations with the Mahé - London service. Its 1989 lease acquisition of a Boeing 767-200ER aircraft set a new distance record for a commercial twin-jet aircraft at the time, having made a 14,311 km flight from Michigan, USA, to Seychelles.
Further down the road and having posted a loss of US$12.5 million in the 2010 - 2011 fiscal year, the airline announced a major restructuring plan, marked by: a drastic cut to its long-haul operations, the appointment of a new CEO, and a shift in focus to high-end, regional operations. Additionally, a capital injection and 40% stake acquisition by Etihad saw the airline's fortunes turn around. In 2014, the airline posted a profit of US$3.2 million, a 21% rise in domestic passenger numbers, and a 22% rise in international passenger numbers.
The acquisition of the new generation Airbus is part of the airline's business transformation plan announced in 2018, and is meant to ensure it's long-term profitability.