Airport to remain open despite COVID-19 pandemic – SCAA chief | 28 March 2020
The Seychelles International Airport will remain open for scheduled international flights and for domestic, surveillance, repatriations and emergency flights among others in relation to cargo and private planes despite the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
It was the chief executive of the Seychelles Civil Aviation Authority (SCAA), Garry Albert, who made the statement during a press briefing on the operation of the authority amid the pandemic.
He noted that the facilities, though, will remain closed when there are no down flight movements.
“We cannot close the airport because we have to keep it open for certain services. We have domestic flights that is still ongoing, we have surveillance flights from the Seychelles Air Force, we have repatriation flights for stranded tourists here whom some governments are making arrangements to fly them back home,” he said.
Mr Albert said that the role of SCAA first and foremost is to look after the safety and security of passengers. And to do that, the authority has to ensure that all aircraft coming to Seychelles meet the safety standard and that the pilots and crew are qualified among other safety and security measures on the ground.
He said that the COVID-19 pandemic does not feature within the definition of the authority’s safety and security act.
He stated that SCAA can only close the airport for safety and security reasons and that if it is to do with security, it has to be done in consultation with the police and the approval of government.
He further stated that if it is to do with safety, then it is SCAA that will take charge.
“What we are seeing today is a health issue and it is for this reason that it is being coordinated by the department of health,” Mr Albert said, noting that SCAA is following and implementing guidelines set by the Public Health Authority against the spread of the virus.
He explained that other than remaining open for some specific flights as mentioned earlier, the airport has to remain open to assist other planes flying in the region as Seychelles has been chosen as the designated place in case of emergency landing thus such flights have to be granted landing permission.
He noted that all flights with passengers will undergo measures and procedures against the coronavirus as set by the health department.
Mr Albert said that the coronavirus pandemic has a direct effect on SCAA in terms of revenue loss from passenger service fees, landing, parking and overflight charges (34%). He further said that for 2019, the passenger service fee represented 56% in revenue for the authority while the landing, parking and overflight charges represented 34% in revenue collection.
He said from a rough estimation from January to end of March this year, SCAA could lose some R50-60 million in revenue. He claimed that for 2019, SCAA made R500 million in revenue.
He added that in 2019, around 921,704 passengers passed through the Seychelles International Airport out of whom 18% were residents and 82% non-residents. He stated that as from next week, there will be nearly zero arrivals as Ethiopian Airline will conduct its last international flight to Seychelles on Tuesday March 31, 2020. He said that the airport used to see 80 international flights per week compared to only fifteen international flights this week. Out of the usual fourteen international airlines operating in Seychelles, only Ethiopian Airline, Condor and Qatar Airways are still coming in. Condor and Qatar Airways are repatriation flights.
Mr Albert said that Air Seychelles, having cancelled all international passenger flights, has also reduced its domestic flights from forty flights per day to only two flights per day. Zil Air, which was operating a minimum of fifty flights per day, now operates with only two flights per day while the Islands Development Company (IDC Aviation) conducts only company flights to carry passengers to the various islands.
He stated that SCAA has been issuing NOTAM (Notice to Airmen) as required by ICAO ensuring all airlines and airports around the world are aware of the restrictions in Seychelles while it is also putting emphasis on hygiene measures and provisions against the virus for staff and stakeholders, as guided by the health department.
As the way forward in the light of a serious financial impact, Mr Albert said all capital projects have been put on hold “to preserve our reserves and we will review our expenditure for savings as we will have a reduction in revenue”.
He also noted that some staff are also being made to work from home as precautionary measures against the spread of the virus.
With practically no flights coming in, Mr Albert stated that the authority is taking the opportunity to do some critical maintenance work on the airfield among other places around the airport.