Is it time to reconsider ‘Fifth Freedom’ for airlines to Seychelles?


Prior to the announcement by Air Seychelles of its ‘repositioning’, it was widely known that the carrier was facing financial stresses and that our trade had suggested that additional carriers be allowed to fly in passengers and as well to consider ‘Fifth Freedom’ rights to carriers requesting as a condition to service our corridor.

At that time the suggestion was denied and certain airlines who had expressed interest pulled out.  All was not lost however as through further contacts, primarily led by and to their credit, the government, it was recently announced that Seychelles would shortly be served by an airline which the trade had originally suggested, although that this service would only now serve one flight every ten days.  A positive start nonetheless and one which is welcomed considering the ratio of beds available to passengers currently inbound to our islands remains to the advantage of the beds remaining still needing to be sold.

That inbound traffic at this moment in time remains at about 58% does suggest that there is room to improve and as well to open up new markets and by that more competition.

In case you were wondering what exactly ‘Fifth Freedom’ for airlines is all about, then this information which follows is for you. 

The fifth freedom, also referred to as beyond rights, allows an airline to carry revenue traffic between foreign countries as a part of services connecting the airline's own country.

  It is the right to carry passengers from one's own country to a second country, and from that country to a third country (and so on). The unofficial 'seventh freedom’, is a variation of the fifth freedom and allows international services wholly outside of an airline's origin.

 An example of a fifth freedom flight is a 2004 Emirates Airlines flight originating in Dubai, then going on to Brisbane, Australia, and then from Brisbane to Auckland, New Zealand, where tickets can be sold on any or all sectors, and in the reverse direction if flights are offered.  Airlines allowed this freedom are more inclined to service certain routes and in most cases without hesitation.

As for Seychelles’ current set of circumstances, the fact remains that as the airline markets shifted and adjusted to meet expectations and demands, and our skies opened up to allow new airlines to fly into Seychelles so as to fill those additional beds, as our traditional markets softened for a variety of reasons, the need for additional routes and markets to be made available became even more important.  If we had not had new carriers flying in today and instead relying on our traditional routes and service strategy what would the industry be facing this month or for that matter the New Year?

New visitors coming in either from far away locations such as Brazil or from mainland China or elsewhere or even from traditional markets, may necessitate a carrier, if that option is chosen, to seek additional re-assurances by requesting ‘Fifth Freedoms’.   The economic challenges faced by carriers everywhere makes this a reasonable request, one which should not be ruled out in its entirety as we no longer have the firm legs of sound national carrier to be doing so.  And even if we did, to chase away potential traffic, revenue, and other opportunities that open air links provide, would be for us a nation, unwise.

If it’s not time then let us make time to fully consider all options so that more airlines and not fewer, call on the Seychelles.  Out of 37 air agreements signed to date only a handful are actually in use.  As we will no longer be flying the Seychelles colours in London, France, Italy, Singapore, let us at least ensure that our colours, this time off the tanned faces of satisfied visitors, are afforded the opportunity to still visit our shores from not only our traditional markets but from new ones as well.  And if it is because ‘Fifth Freedom’ was part of that increase, then we are the better for it.

In closing let us as well, and as we are doing for certain airlines in the Italian and French markets, knock on the doors of a ‘Lufthansa’ flag carrier for Germany whose economy continues to grow, or a ‘Virgin’ whose business prowess and ability to increase interest is recognised as being excellent, and offer them an opportunity to our Seychellois skies and shores.  Let’s not forget the huge marketing machinery that these airlines already possess and which would in a ‘nanosecond’ reap untold benefits to our country. 

Contributed by the Seychelles Hospitality and Tourism Association (SHTA)

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